New Delhi | Technocrat and senior Congress leader Sam Pitroda on Thursday called upon the Election Commission to revert to the paper ballot system, saying voters in the country have lost trust in elections with EVMS, and favoured monitoring of the Lok Sabha elections by a group of global experts for fairness.
Addressing an online press conference, he, however, said the views expressed by him are independent and not his party's.
"I am not involving the party here," he asserted.
Pitroda also urged people to raise their voice against the electronic voting machines (EVMs) claiming questions are being raised on their veracity and accuracy.
On National Voters Day, Pitroda said it is important to raise one's voice against this as voters in the country have lost trust in elections with EVMs and that is why the need to go back to paper ballot.
Pitroda, who heads the Indian Overseas Congress, said this year's Lok Sabha elections are the most important as they will decide the destiny of the nation for a long time to come.
"Democracy is at the crossroads because of polarised politics, social media amplifying lies, hate, fear and I see this in India and many other countries. As a result, people's vote becomes even more powerful. India is the largest democracy but in the last few years some of us believe institutions are under attack and civil society is not allowed freely and as a result freedom of people is being affected," he said.
Pitroda said he is concerned that unless we prepare in the next few weeks, "we will lose people's trust in elections. And if you do that we will lose trust in democracy".
"I have lost trust and being an Indian citizen, I am concerned about voting in India. Paper ballot is the only option left today as the phase for technical solutions is over. People are demanding that the EC listens to their voice and there are demonstrations which bothers me that the government and the Election Commission is not giving any attention to people," he asserted.
M G Devasahayam, a retired IAS officer who is part of the Citizen's Commission, said in a democracy, the citizen is a sovereign and they are transferring his sovereignty to a representative.
"We have no option. Our demand is we will not accept anything except paper ballot. Elections in India were a sacred affair and people had faith and that trust and faith has been badly shaken. We propose to make an international monitoring board to monitor the 2024 elections to see that these elections are held in free and fair manner," he said.
Pitroda said the Citizen's Commission on Elections had given a report on the last elections which is alarming and the Election Commission has to take note of it.
"There is a huge trust deficit and this is not an issue for just a political party, it is really the issue for the voter. EC is saying you convince us and their response is very bureaucratic. With elections round the corner, there is not enough time to look at the machines. The only option today is paper ballot and it is not very complicated, as it is always good to go back to basics," he said.
Indian democracy is more about independent institutions, he said, asserting that citizen's issue that Election Commission must give importance to.
On how an international monitoring group can monitor polls in India, Pitroda said, "Why not, what's wrong with it. We are a country of 1.5 billion people and need to be open and transparent. We want to lead the world and yet we are not open."
Asked about the Congress also winning states like Telangana and Karnataka, he said, "the outcome of election has noting to do with this."
"I am not saying it is being done. I am saying as a voter, I don't have trust anymore in elections," he noted.
Devasahayam said the the voter not know where the vote is going and this does not comply with the basic principle of democracy.
"They brought in VVPAT to ensure verification of votes. It is natural that the paper slip is to be counted, but EC said just count the memory of EVM. This is a complete kind of joke. They are counting only a few VVPATs but not the whole. That is a fraud by the Election Commission," Devasahayam said, noting that the EC is not listening to anyone.