Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza


Many politicians blame electronic voting machines when they lose elections. Other losers have blamed EVMs at different times. When same politicians win elections they don’t say EVMs wrong or were tampered with. In 2009 BJP blamed EVMs for Lok Sabha loss. In 2014 BJP won Lok Sabha elections did not have problem with EVMs. When AIADMK won elections it claimed EVMs were right and when it lost it claimed EVMs were wrong.
This time Mayawati started the controversy surrounding EVMs. She got 19 seats out of 403 in UP Legislative Assembly. She said she lost due to EVMs. She said when one journalist said EVMs were programmed to benefit BJP and whichever button one may press the vote will go to BJP she did not believe it but after her defeat she believed EVMs were rigged. Arvind Kejriwal joined her and blamed AAP loss in Punjab to EVM rigging. AAP got 20 seats out of 117 in Punjab. Congress got 77. Some pollsters had predicted AAP victory in Punjab and some tough fight between AAP and Congress. Later Akhilesh Yadav also spoke against EVMs. SP-Congress alliance had done badly in UP.
Now BJP leaders think there is no defect in EVMs. Any defect is in politicians of other parties. Faith in EVMs depends on whether one wins or loses.
Election Commission of India has defended EVMs. Opponents of EVMs give examples of countries like Norway and Ireland which abandoned EVMs. India should not follow the example of such countries. Their population is less than five million. Many Indian cities have more population than that. Opponents of EVMs had gone to Supreme Court and the matter was settled in favour of EVMs. Those opponents now find EVMs perfect. TV channels giving undue publicity to people who oppose EVMs is not good. Anchors should question them whether their victories in the past were due to defective EVMs. ECI and former Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners should continue defending EVMs. Abandoning EVMs will be a regressive step. Rigging is possible with ballot papers. It is rigging when ballot papers are divided into bundles of 50 party-wise and the top ballot paper has vote for BJP and the remaining 49 ballot papers have votes for some other party or candidate.
ECI should see that there is no long gap between voting and counting. Voting in Punjab was on 4 February, counting on 11 March. UP had seven phases of election. Guarding EVMs for many days is a problem. Election or voting in a state should be on a single day and counting should be next day at 8 a.m. Counting in one state should not be delayed because of voting in another state some days later on.

Army and sahayaks

There is a problem with Indian Army. Many soldiers resent being sahayaks. Sahayak means assistant or helper. Soldiers say they join the army to fight for the country, not to do menial jobs of officers. Officers say sahayaks are buddies; it is voluntary to be a sahayak. Officers are busy. There are four officers where there should be eighteen. They have no time to clean their rifles, polish their shoes. Navy and Air Force officers do not have sahayaks. There is a demand to end use of soldiers as sahayaks.
All is not well with army or paramilitary troops. Videos of complaints by soldiers and others have come out. There are allegations of corruption and swindling by officers. It started with a BSF jawan posting a video about the food. Then a soldier posted a video of being used as a servant by officer. The matter became serious when Roy Mathew, a soldier who was used as a sahayak at Deolali Cantonment, was videographed by a news web site and found dead after some days.
There is another video of Sindhav Jogidas accusing some officers treating sahayaks as slaves. Army has rejected the accusations and claimed Sindhav Jogidas was never employed as a sahayak.
The problem was there for a long time. There was no redressal. Soldiers could complain to higher authorities as per chain of command but nothing good will come out of it. Officers continue to use sahayaks as servants. The difference now is that there are social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Sahayaks can post their complaints there. That gets publicity. Army responds by saying the sahayak was not a good fellow, he was insubordinate and so on. Army has told soldiers to take their complaints or demands as per chain of command and not to go public with their complaints or demands but some will go public anyway.
From time to time we hear of a soldier shooting his officer or other soldiers. We don’t get to know why. Once there was a mutiny. Problems in the army have been hushed up for a long time.
Soldiers are not for doing jobs of officers like washing utensils and cars, sweeping and mopping floor, taking out dogs, dropping children to school and bringing back, doing the works of guests and so on. It does not take long to polish shoes or clean a rifle. If necessary, civilians should be employed to help officers.
In 2008 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had asked the Ministry of Defence to issue instructions to stop forthwith the shameful practice of sahayaks which lowers the self-esteem of jawans. Nine years later the shameful practice continues.

Bank charges

Three banks have decided to charge customers a minimum of 150 rupees for cash transactions exceeding four per month. Every fifth and subsequent transaction will be charged 150 rupees or 5 rupees per 1,000 rupees, whichever is higher. The banks are Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank. The transactions include both deposits and withdrawals. The decision is atrocious, illogical, immoral, unfair, and unjust. Besides this, Axis Bank charges 5 rupees per 1,000 rupees a minimum of 150 rupees if the amount exceeds 1 lakh rupees per month, and HDFC Axis Bank charges 5 rupees per 1,000 rupees a minimum of 150 rupees if the amount exceeds 2 lakh rupees per month. The banks are private banks but I am sure Modi government is behind the move to see the reaction and ask public sector banks to charge customers similarly. Already there are charges on ATM withdrawals exceeding a certain number and this decision of banks makes banking unpopular.
People should not have to pay for depositing or withdrawing their money from banks. If a person deposits or withdraws 1 rupee in fifth transaction he or she will lose 150 rupees. This is atrocious.
Including cash deposits in cash transactions for charging customers discourages customers from depositing money in bank. People are likely to keep money in bank or open accounts in other banks.
Banks charge customers when there is no minimum balance in customer’s account. Banks should pay to customer when they are unable to give customer the amount required. If a customer wants to withdraw 24,000 rupees and bank can give him only 2,000 rupees, bank should pay to customer amount proportionate to charge below minimum balance.
After remonetisation banks lowered interest rates on savings accounts and fixed deposits and borrowings. This has resulted in loss for most people while corporates have benefitted. Some workers get their wages in their bank accounts on weekly basis. They withdraw cash once a week. Every third month they will have to withdraw fifth time and they will be losers.
It is strange that honest people who deposit their money in bank are made to suffer and crooks and dishonest people who borrow thousands of crores of rupees from banks and do not repay loans get away. Banks lose principal and interest. The identity of crooks and dishonest people is kept secret. Sometimes they are favoured with corporate debt restructuring or strategic debt restructuring or simply default and nobody takes action. The debts are written off.

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