Manoj Kumar (45) spent most of his time reading letters and forwarding them to different departments in the Education Department, where he works.
Of late, though, his job has become a little more dynamic — he spends his day setting up an electronic voting machine (EVM) with the newly equipped VVPAT (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) in public spaces, and urges people to cast their vote to dispel myths around the process.
Some are enthusiastic, others confused.
“Which election is this, sir? I don’t have my voter card,” a woman tells Manoj outside Pragati Maidan Metro station. He tells there’s no poll happening here: “This is the new EVM machine, which will be used in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. I am here to teach you how to use it.”
Manoj was trained for a week by Election Commission officials on handling the EVM, including setting up and connecting the control unit to the ballot unit. He is also trained in installing a white roll of paper to the VVPAT unit, which provides a printed feedback to verify the vote.
“It was not that difficult to set up the machine. The paper roll finishes in three hours and has to be replaced. There have been times when the system had to be restarted, but I am getting the hang of it,” Manoj says, flanked by a civil defence volunteer who handles security of the EVM.
Every morning, Manoj takes the EVM after making an entry in a register. He is provided a car and a driver from the EC, and has to take the machine to local bus stands, railway stations, malls and areas with high footfall.
At Pragati Maidan Metro station, people have many questions for Manoj. One asks if the machine can make photocopies, another wonders if he can get an Aadhaar card made here. Manoj is patient, directing the person to the nearest Aadhaar centre. “Most people ask me for directions. They are either shy or scared to test out the EVM.”
But Manoj asks everyone who exits the Metro station to give it a shot. Shubham (32), a local businessman from Karawal Nagar, tries it out, but asks, “Modi ji kahan hai iss machine mein?” Manoj replies that since this is a training kit, no candidates are present.
Another man touches the letters instead of pushing the buttons. “Isme touchscreen nahi hai?” he asks. When Manoj replies in the negative, the man asks, “Toh kya naya hai isme?”
A group of elderly citizens walk towards the EVM and try out the machine. One of them verifies his vote from the VVPAT screen and smiles, while others pat Manoj’s back. A group of youngsters click selfies with the machine, while a first-time voter, Shubham (18), presses a button, egged on by his mother.
Some, like Lakhan (34), a dairy worker, are suspicious. “Even after we look at the paper, what guarantee will you give that it will not be manipulated?” he asks. Aakash (27), a businessman, insists “yeh sab hack ho jaata hai”.
In the afternoon, Manoj breaks for tea as the civil defence volunteer takes over: “People can be harsh sometimes. But it is my job to introduce them to the EVM. And I like it,” he says.