Your EVM, Your Vote: So, how strong are strong rooms containing EVMs?
There has been a lot of talk about the strong rooms where our EVMs are kept. What exactly are these so-called super protected rooms?
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The Election Commission of India has said that EVMs are absolutely safe in strong rooms and that allegations of EVMs being moved around allegedly to replace polled EVMs were false. Opposition leaders alleged that two trucks carrying EVMs were caught in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh while candidates were reportedly prevented from guarding the EVM strong rooms in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh.
So, what happens with EVMs when they leave the polling station and go into strong rooms?
Transportation of EVMs to strong rooms
The polled EVMs are transported from the polling station to the strong rooms under the supervision of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
Candidates and their representatives are allowed to follow the vehicle with EVMs. The strong rooms are sealed after all EVMs reach the centre and the entire process is videographed.
EVMs are transported under the supervision of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). (Photo: PTI)
Sealing of strong rooms after elections
The strong rooms are usually set up in government schools or government buildings. No school activity takes place during that time. The strong rooms should have only one entry point and double lock system. One key should be kept with the returning officer and the other with the assistant returning officer of the concerned assembly constituency. The other entry points of the strong rooms (including windows) should be sealed in such a way that no one has access inside the strong rooms. The entry point of strong rooms have CCTV coverage round the clock.
Strong rooms are sealed the moment they reach the specific centre and are kept under armed vigil 24x7. (Photo: PTI)
Three-tier security system
The strong rooms are kept in a three-tier security system. The first tier, which is the innermost permiter, is maintained by CAPF guard. They are armed 24x7. CAPF guards maintain a book where each security officer stationed at the strong rooms will enter the date, time, duration and names of anyone coming near the strong rooms. Even if they sniff or stare at the strong rooms, the CAPF guards need to write it down in their log books.
Visits by political party officials, election commission officials, candidates or agents need to be recorded. Video cameras are provided to CAPF jawans to record all visits made by visitors. No vehicle, including that of any official, minister or any other political party, is allowed inside the secured campus.
The second-tier security is maintained by state armed police force and the third-tier comprises of guarding by district executive force.
Guidelines for the strong rooms
The entry point of a strong room having EVMs shall have CCTV coverage. Some important guidelines for the strong rooms are that they should not be located in a basement, or in a flood-prone area, not located near a water tank or washrooms, staircase or pump house.
The EVMs are monitored by police officers, returning officers and constantly, CCTV cameras. (Photo: PTI)
Arrangements should be made for fire and floods, a control room should be set up near the strong room to monitor the room where EVMs are kept. A gazetted officer along with a police officer should be on duty round the clock for monitoring security arrangements. The strong rooms should have uninterrupted power supply. The secured rooms are opened at the day of counting in the presence of candidates and their representatives after verifying the intact quality of the seal.
Returning officers keep an eye on the strong rooms
The returning officer needs to visit the storage campus every day in the morning and evening, check the log book and videography for any suspicious movement. A daily report is sent to the district election officer of strong rooms till the results are declared.