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Tally EVM-VVPAT slips before final counting, Oppn. tells EC

Poll body non-committal, says decision likely today after full panel meeting

Raising a point: N. Chandrababu Naidu and other Opposition leaders leaving the Election Commission’s office. Anuj aroraAnuj Arora

Twenty-two Opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday demanding that tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling booths in each Assembly segment with the electronic voting machines (EVMs) be done prior to the counting of votes.

If any discrepancy is found anywhere in the VVPAT verification, hundred per cent counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that Assembly segment should be done, the parties demanded. The EC, however, remained non-committal and told them that there would be a special meeting of the full Commission on Wednesday to examine the issue.

Many meetings

The Opposition parties together and individually have met the EC 94 times in the last few months with the same request. The EC also refused the demand for 100% tallying of VVPAT slips.

The meeting saw a sharp exchange between the Opposition parties and the EC.

PM decries attempts to ‘denigrate’ integrity of polls

NDA resolution lauds Modi’s work in the last five years

Pat from allies: PM Modi being felicitated by Nitish Kumar at a meeting of NDA leaders on Tuesday. Sushil Kumar Verma The Hindu

On a day when a group of Opposition parties approached the courts and the Election Commission, alleging tampering of electronic voting machines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told 36 of his 39 NDA partner party leaders that at a time when the sheer size, scale and integrity of Indian elections were becoming a global brand, efforts were on to undermine the exercise.

He was speaking at a dinner hosted by BJP president Amit Shah where, in a show of strength by the NDA, senior leaders like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan were present.

The meeting saw the passing of a resolution by NDA leaders introduced by Mr. Paswan, reposing faith in the leadership of Mr. Modi. Three allies — the Mizo National Front, the Tiwa Jaatiya Oikiya Manch and the United Democratic Party — sent their support for the resolution in writing.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, briefing reporters after the dinner, said the resolution appreciated the work of the government under Mr. Modi in the last five years.

ranab raises concern over safety of EVMs

Urges EC to guard against tampering

Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday issued a statement expressing concern at media reports of alleged tampering with electronic voting machines (EVMs) and their safety and security.

His statement comes a day after he praised the Election Commission’s conduct of the 2019 Lok Sabha election while speaking at a book release function and on a day leaders of the Opposition parties approached the EC for compulsory tallying of all EVM machines with VVPAT of an Assembly segment in case of mismatch in any one machine.

“I am concerned at reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of the ECI is the responsibility of the Commission,” he said.

Adding that there could be no room for speculation that challenged the very basis of Indian democracy, Mr. Mukherjee said the “people’s mandate” had to be “above any iota of doubt.” “It is the ‘workmen’ who decide how the institutional ‘tools’ perform,” he said, adding it was the job of the EC to ensure institutional integrity, and it must exert itself to put all speculation to rest.

Plug and pray: Parsi priests go high tech

With a decline in its population, the Parsi community is innovating to save its age-old traditions.

It has digitised its prayers, and Parsis can now plug in their earphones or tap their phone screens to learn them. The range covers advanced ones recited by priests to everyday chants for households.

The exercise aims to not just improve access for the young and the elderly, but to provide a reference for priests.

“What we have created is an audiovisual mode of education,” said Ervad Sarosh Aibara, who came up with the idea along with another priest, Ervad Keki Ravji.

The compilation is available on pen drives, which can be accessed free.

Mr. Aibara said more than 100 prayers, including the shortest one of three lines, to one of the longest that goes on for about seven hours are available. The prayers are recited by Mr. Ravji.

Children can learn

Anahita Desai, chief executive, World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis, called it a great effort. “When a child has to memorise the Navjote prayers, he or she can now do it with the help of just this audio. The digitised version also has a video of the entire Yasna ritual, one of the most intricate ceremonies,” Ms. Desai said.

The World Zoroastrian Organisation (WZO) Trust has sponsored a video version. “We thought it was a great project, given that the number of Parsi priests has been declining. The compilation has some higher liturgical prayers,” WZO chairman Dinshaw Tamboly said.

The Parsi effort matches other global projects to digitise traditions.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation runs the ‘Memory of The World Programme’ to preserve rare archival material. “There is a lot of recording taking place to preserve history and traditions. Institutions across the world are taking up projects,” said Shernaz Cama, director of the UNESCO Parzor Foundation, which works on Parsi Zoroastrian heritage.

After the inaugural on May 10, Mr. Aibara got more than 80 calls about the pen drive, some from as far as Australia and New Zealand.

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