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Saturday, Nov 26, 2022

Chip shortage poses major challenge to ECI before 2024 polls: IITGN director

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has a unique challenge at hand amid the shortage of semi conductors and chips in the country — it has to ready nearly four lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the general elections in 2024. Professor Rajat Moona who recently took charge as the director of Indian Institute of […]

Professor Rajat Moona

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has a unique challenge at hand amid the shortage of semi conductors and chips in the country — it has to ready nearly four lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the general elections in 2024.

Professor Rajat Moona who recently took charge as the director of Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) is an active member of ECI’s Technical Expert Committee for EVMs since 2009 and has been instrumental in defining the EVMs and VVPAT. The Committee is headed by DT Shahani, retired professor of IIT Delhi.

Sharing the concerns with The Indian Express, Moona said, “The world is going through an unprecedented crisis of semi conductors. It is taking enormous time to get components though we started the planning almost a year ago.”

Adding that there are nearly four lakh (previous generation) M2 machines, Moona said all future elections, including assembly elections, will be on much-advanced version or the M3 machines. “As per estimates, there is a requirement of 10-11 lakh EVMs for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections along with 20-30 per cent additional machines as back-up that adds up to a total 13 lakh machines against the nine lakh machines available,” he added.

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Ruling out signing of an agreement between the Vedanta Foxconn Group and the Gujarat government for a semi conductor project to cover this shortage, Moona said it is time-consuming and complicated. “India has at least gone into semi-conductor manufacturing that is a very positive step. But the results will be seen only after 7-8 years,” he said.

“Most machines were used in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections so there has been conscious efforts to not use them in Assembly elections… but in 2024, if we do not have sufficient number of machines, we may have to use the functional ones out of the old ones,” he added.

To tide over the shortage, Moona said they are exploring “alternative sources”, with the major supplier being Europe. “Major supplier is Europe, while chip manufacturing typically happens in Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. We are looking at multiple sources and the way we can reduce risks… The shortage is due to the time taken in manufacturing… It takes time to grow crystals and the demand is very high,” he said adding that the Covid-19 pandemic also created an unprecedented demand as several plants were shut, lockdowns were imposed and employees were working from home.

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Since resistors and capacitors are not manufactured in India, they have to undergo a stringent quality tests, Moona said, adding, “The bandwidth reduces because of all these controls. Say, we cannot do more than 1,000 machines a day. But if you have to do four lakh machines, we require 400 days. But now (due to shortage), in a year, 1,000-2,000 machines is what can be made.”

The Russia-Ukraine war also had an impact, Moona said, though not significantly, as these two countries provide certain type of gases that are used in the manufacturing of semi conductors.

The year 2006 was a turning point for EVMs and the ones that were used till then were last used in the 2014 general elections. “Pre-2006 machines were destroyed and then new ones came… we redesigned them and the machines were faster with better processer and less power hungry. These are called M3 machines. In 2024 elections, probably they may be used the last time or may not be used at all,” he said.

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More machines are needed as old machines become unusable and number of voters increase, Moona said. “Also we need spare ones in case something goes wrong. During elections you cannot do anything so we need to have a spare capacity… many of these machines go into election petitions and get locked till court gives judgement. Once they are locked, they go bad faster,” he said adding sometimes it may take a decade.

When VVPATs were brought in, they could work only with M2 and M3 machines and not with M1 machines, he cited as another reason for the requirement of new machines.

Ruling out the tampering allegations made by political parties, Moona said it is not possible. “These are standalone machines. You cannot connect them to any network or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth… The software in the machines is one-time programmable and that is done at the time of manufacturing. It cannot be changed. If you find a bug in the software, the only option is to recall the machines,” he said.

Claiming that 99.9 per cent failures of the machines are caught at the first level checks, before going to elections, Moona said adding no matter what one says (about tampering), it has never been proved.

On the academic front, Moona said that his priority at IITGN is to make the institution completely paperless. “We don’t do any cheques or drafts on paper. At IITGN, for internal administration, we use paper but even that will stop soon. Digital first should be the primary motto,” he said. The 14-year-old IITGN is set to undergo an overhaul, he said, adding, “The idea is to remove older stuff out… and bring in whatever is needed for the country and society.”

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Laying emphasis on computing engineering, he said, “Things like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are going to be the defining factors for industries 4.0. India is actually taking this big transformative step by moving from trading zone to manufacturing and design zone.”

Instrumental in defining some of the key applications for the country, including smart card driving licence, vehicle registration, e-passport, electronic toll collection and mobility card, Moona was earlier the director of IIT Bhilai and Director General of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC.

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has a unique challenge at hand amid the shortage of semi conductors and chips in the country — it has to ready nearly four lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the general elections in 2024.

Professor Rajat Moona who recently took charge as the director of Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) is an active member of ECI’s Technical Expert Committee for EVMs since 2009 and has been instrumental in defining the EVMs and VVPAT. The Committee is headed by DT Shahani, retired professor of IIT Delhi.

Advertisement

Sharing the concerns with The Indian Express, Moona said, “The world is going through an unprecedented crisis of semi conductors. It is taking enormous time to get components though we started the planning almost a year ago.”

Adding that there are nearly four lakh (previous generation) M2 machines, Moona said all future elections, including assembly elections, will be on much-advanced version or the M3 machines. “As per estimates, there is a requirement of 10-11 lakh EVMs for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections along with 20-30 per cent additional machines as back-up that adds up to a total 13 lakh machines against the nine lakh machines available,” he added.

Ruling out signing of an agreement between the Vedanta Foxconn Group and the Gujarat government for a semi conductor project to cover this shortage, Moona said it is time-consuming and complicated. “India has at least gone into semi-conductor manufacturing that is a very positive step. But the results will be seen only after 7-8 years,” he said.

“Most machines were used in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections so there has been conscious efforts to not use them in Assembly elections… but in 2024, if we do not have sufficient number of machines, we may have to use the functional ones out of the old ones,” he added.

To tide over the shortage, Moona said they are exploring “alternative sources”, with the major supplier being Europe. “Major supplier is Europe, while chip manufacturing typically happens in Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. We are looking at multiple sources and the way we can reduce risks… The shortage is due to the time taken in manufacturing… It takes time to grow crystals and the demand is very high,” he said adding that the Covid-19 pandemic also created an unprecedented demand as several plants were shut, lockdowns were imposed and employees were working from home.

Since resistors and capacitors are not manufactured in India, they have to undergo a stringent quality tests, Moona said, adding, “The bandwidth reduces because of all these controls. Say, we cannot do more than 1,000 machines a day. But if you have to do four lakh machines, we require 400 days. But now (due to shortage), in a year, 1,000-2,000 machines is what can be made.”

The Russia-Ukraine war also had an impact, Moona said, though not significantly, as these two countries provide certain type of gases that are used in the manufacturing of semi conductors.

The year 2006 was a turning point for EVMs and the ones that were used till then were last used in the 2014 general elections. “Pre-2006 machines were destroyed and then new ones came… we redesigned them and the machines were faster with better processer and less power hungry. These are called M3 machines. In 2024 elections, probably they may be used the last time or may not be used at all,” he said.

More machines are needed as old machines become unusable and number of voters increase, Moona said. “Also we need spare ones in case something goes wrong. During elections you cannot do anything so we need to have a spare capacity… many of these machines go into election petitions and get locked till court gives judgement. Once they are locked, they go bad faster,” he said adding sometimes it may take a decade.

When VVPATs were brought in, they could work only with M2 and M3 machines and not with M1 machines, he cited as another reason for the requirement of new machines.

Ruling out the tampering allegations made by political parties, Moona said it is not possible. “These are standalone machines. You cannot connect them to any network or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth… The software in the machines is one-time programmable and that is done at the time of manufacturing. It cannot be changed. If you find a bug in the software, the only option is to recall the machines,” he said.

Claiming that 99.9 per cent failures of the machines are caught at the first level checks, before going to elections, Moona said adding no matter what one says (about tampering), it has never been proved.

On the academic front, Moona said that his priority at IITGN is to make the institution completely paperless. “We don’t do any cheques or drafts on paper. At IITGN, for internal administration, we use paper but even that will stop soon. Digital first should be the primary motto,” he said. The 14-year-old IITGN is set to undergo an overhaul, he said, adding, “The idea is to remove older stuff out… and bring in whatever is needed for the country and society.”

Laying emphasis on computing engineering, he said, “Things like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are going to be the defining factors for industries 4.0. India is actually taking this big transformative step by moving from trading zone to manufacturing and design zone.”

Instrumental in defining some of the key applications for the country, including smart card driving licence, vehicle registration, e-passport, electronic toll collection and mobility card, Moona was earlier the director of IIT Bhilai and Director General of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). RITU SHARMA

AHMEDABAD, OCTOBER 5

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has a unique challenge at hand amid the shortage of semi conductors and chips in the country — it has to ready nearly four lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the general elections in 2024.

Professor Rajat Moona who recently took charge as the director of Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) is an active member of ECI’s Technical Expert Committee for EVMs since 2009 and has been instrumental in defining the EVMs and VVPAT. The Committee is headed by DT Shahani, retired professor of IIT Delhi.

Sharing the concerns with The Indian Express, Moona said, “The world is going through an unprecedented crisis of semi conductors. It is taking enormous time to get components though we started the planning almost a year ago.”

Adding that there are nearly four lakh (previous generation) M2 machines, Moona said all future elections, including assembly elections, will be on much-advanced version or the M3 machines. “As per estimates, there is a requirement of 10-11 lakh EVMs for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections along with 20-30 per cent additional machines as back-up that adds up to a total 13 lakh machines against the nine lakh machines available,” he added.

Ruling out signing of an agreement between the Vedanta Foxconn Group and the Gujarat government for a semi conductor project to cover this shortage, Moona said it is time-consuming and complicated. “India has at least gone into semi-conductor manufacturing that is a very positive step. But the results will be seen only after 7-8 years,” he said.

“Most machines were used in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections so there has been conscious efforts to not use them in Assembly elections… but in 2024, if we do not have sufficient number of machines, we may have to use the functional ones out of the old ones,” he added.

To tide over the shortage, Moona said they are exploring “alternative sources”, with the major supplier being Europe. “Major supplier is Europe, while chip manufacturing typically happens in Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. We are looking at multiple sources and the way we can reduce risks… The shortage is due to the time taken in manufacturing… It takes time to grow crystals and the demand is very high,” he said adding that the Covid-19 pandemic also created an unprecedented demand as several plants were shut, lockdowns were imposed and employees were working from home.

Since resistors and capacitors are not manufactured in India, they have to undergo a stringent quality tests, Moona said, adding, “The bandwidth reduces because of all these controls. Say, we cannot do more than 1,000 machines a day. But if you have to do four lakh machines, we require 400 days. But now (due to shortage), in a year, 1,000-2,000 machines is what can be made.”

The Russia-Ukraine war also had an impact, Moona said, though not significantly, as these two countries provide certain type of gases that are used in the manufacturing of semi conductors.

The year 2006 was a turning point for EVMs and the ones that were used till then were last used in the 2014 general elections. “Pre-2006 machines were destroyed and then new ones came… we redesigned them and the machines were faster with better processer and less power hungry. These are called M3 machines. In 2024 elections, probably they may be used the last time or may not be used at all,” he said.

More machines are needed as old machines become unusable and number of voters increase, Moona said. “Also we need spare ones in case something goes wrong. During elections you cannot do anything so we need to have a spare capacity… many of these machines go into election petitions and get locked till court gives judgement. Once they are locked, they go bad faster,” he said adding sometimes it may take a decade.

When VVPATs were brought in, they could work only with M2 and M3 machines and not with M1 machines, he cited as another reason for the requirement of new machines.

Ruling out the tampering allegations made by political parties, Moona said it is not possible. “These are standalone machines. You cannot connect them to any network or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth… The software in the machines is one-time programmable and that is done at the time of manufacturing. It cannot be changed. If you find a bug in the software, the only option is to recall the machines,” he said.

Claiming that 99.9 per cent failures of the machines are caught at the first level checks, before going to elections, Moona said adding no matter what one says (about tampering), it has never been proved.

On the academic front, Moona said that his priority at IITGN is to make the institution completely paperless. “We don’t do any cheques or drafts on paper. At IITGN, for internal administration, we use paper but even that will stop soon. Digital first should be the primary motto,” he said. The 14-year-old IITGN is set to undergo an overhaul, he said, adding, “The idea is to remove older stuff out… and bring in whatever is needed for the country and society.”

Laying emphasis on computing engineering, he said, “Things like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are going to be the defining factors for industries 4.0. India is actually taking this big transformative step by moving from trading zone to manufacturing and design zone.”

Instrumental in defining some of the key applications for the country, including smart card driving licence, vehicle registration, e-passport, electronic toll collection and mobility card, Moona was earlier the director of IIT Bhilai and Director General of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

First published on: 06-10-2022 at 03:25:50 am
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