Blogosphere, India, opensource, politics

An open letter to Chief Election Commissioner regarding EC EVM Challenge

Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi
24 April 2017
Re: EVM Challenge
Dear Dr. Zaidi

We are a group of well-wishers trained in engineering and the sciences. We understand that the EVM challenge has been initiated by the Election Commission as a response to allegations that the recent elections were rigged. From a technical perspective, such allegations are best addressed by auditing VVPAT records where they exist. The EC could, however, use this challenge as an opportunity to increase electoral process transparency. Additionally, independent of the outcome of the challenge, the EC should check the outcome of each election by creating, maintaining and auditing VVPAT records.

The issue of EVM security is not a political one, but a technical one. From a technical perspective, to understand what kind of tampering is possible, actions that might be performed by an insider in the process, or a criminal, should be allowed during the challenge. In the event that the EC prevents some type of access, (it disallowed physical tampering in 2009) it should explain why an insider or a criminal would not have that kind of access.

Additionally, we believe the following are necessary to fully understand EVM security strengths and weaknesses:

  1. Individuals should be allowed to choose their instruments and to physically tamper with an EVM.
  2. They should be provided design documents and test descriptions and results, as well as information about the security procedures in place, for each generation of EVM currently in use.
  3. The results obtained by each team examining the EVMs should be made public.
  4. Longer term testing by a team with in-depth expertise in computer security and voting system security should be performed, and its results be similarly made public, in the manner of theTop-To-Bottom-Review ordered by the Secretary of State of California, USA, in 2007.
  5. A team of experts should be tasked with preparing recommendations to address each important security vulnerability discovered during the challenge and the longer term testing; their report and the decisions of the EC regarding timeline for addressing each issue should be made public. The process should be open, and comments from external experts should be solicited.

The EC should note that it is virtually impossible, whatever the qualification of the individual examining the EVM, to determine with certainty that EVMs are tamper-proof. Electronic devices can be designed to detect when they are being tested, and it is practically impossible to test for every possible configuration and scenario. Hence, if the EVM challenge does not detect a problem, this does not mean that election outcomes are guaranteed to be secure in the future; regular VVPAT audits can help address this issue.

Our Position on EVM Security

As engineers and scientists, we know that an electronic device, such as the EVM, is not transparent to the human voter. As such, the human voter does not know whether his or her vote was recorded or counted correctly. Further, our experience and education indicates to us that machine errors and human error in the processes of design, testing and deployment can result in an incorrect output.Electronic devices cannot be guaranteed to be immune from tampering when there is a large number of insiders with access and non-insiders with mal-intent, attempting to subvert the device’s functioning. These include everyone who may have access to the EVM over the cycle of design, manufacture, testing, storage, maintenance, calibration and deployment.

The Indian EVM is interesting from a design perspective because it is a single-purpose device, unlike most other voting machines developed elsewhere, and its functionality is achieved through a combination of hardware and firmware. The prescribed process for its use does not require wireless communication and it is not fitted with hardware to enable such communication. Thus, it is not immediately vulnerable to exactly the same attacks that work on other voting machines. However, the design by itself is not sufficient to protect the EVM from tampering or error. A general class of vulnerabilities is common to both the Western machines and the EVM. These vulnerabilities arise because of the difficulty of determining exactly what a given electronic machine will do in every scenario, and because those with physical access can change and probe aspects of the hardware or software (for example, they can fit the machine with a wireless receiver, swap out a ROM, or determine the key used to provide cryptographic security).

While the EC has announced several times that it believes that the EVM is tamper-proof because of certain design aspects, there has been no release of any detailed information about these design features. As a result, there is no clarity regarding EVM security.

The EVM Challenge, beginning on 1 May 2017, should be treated as a means through which voters and the public in the world’s largest democracy may understand the security strengths and weaknesses of their voting technology. It would be a waste of time and energy if the EVM Challenge is executed as a superficial exercise without full access and transparency. Our recommendations for enabling transparency in the process are listed in the main body of this letter.

Independent of the outcome of the EVM Challenge, the EC should enable the creation of VVPAT records, ensure their secure storage separate from the EVMs, and conduct regular VVPAT audits for each election. It is heartening to note that funding for VVPAT capabilities was recently approved by the Cabinet after persistent requests from the EC. The creation of the VVPAT records is not sufficient, however; the records for each election should be audited. Audits involve the examination of a randomly-chosen subset of the VVPAT records and are, generally, much more efficient than a full hand count.

The EC has a well-deserved excellent reputation worldwide. It successfully carries out elections in a very challenging environment: with a large number of voters over diverse geography, climate, literacy and culture, making extraordinary efforts to be inclusive of all voters. We hope that the EC will keep up the positive momentum and conduct a genuinely open and substantial EVM Challenge so that voters may understand better the capabilities and limitations of their voting technology. This can only enhance the trustworthiness of our elections and the vibrant nature of Indian democracy.

Note that affiliations below are included for identification purposes only and do not reflect the view of the signatories’ employers or collaborators. Those names marked with an asterisk were added after the letter was sent to the EC.
David D’Lima
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (North Carolina State University);
Position: Vice President, Integrated Platforms and Solutions
Wipro, Bengaluru
Shripad Dharmadhikary
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay)
Position: Policy Researcher
Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
Gautam Doshi
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. Eng. (University of California, Berkeley);
Position: Senior Principal Engineer
Intel Co., Bengaluru
Bopana Ganapathy
Education: Ph. D. (University of Kentucky)
Position: VP Engineering & Site Leader
CA Technologies, Bengaluru
Manjusha Madabushi
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Northwestern University);
Position: Co-founder
Talentica Software, Pune
A M Nagabhushan
Education: M. Tech. (IIT-Bombay);
Position: Professor
Ramaiah Institute of Technology (MSRIT), Bengaluru
Narendra Nande
Education: B. E. (Amravati University); M. E. (Shivaji University);
Position: Senior Director, Software Engineering
Eximius Design Inc., Bengaluru
R Ramanujam*
Education: B.E. (BITS, Pilani); Ph. D. (TIFR Mumbai)
Position: Professor
Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
Nitin Shimpi
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Marquette University)
Position: Co-founder
Talentica Software, Pune
Soumitra Sen
Education: B. E. (Jadavpur University); M. Eng. (IISc.); PGSM-MBA (IIM, Bangalore)
Position:VP & Head of Engineering, Cloud Managed Security
Paladion, Bengaluru
K V Subrahmanyam
Education: B. Tech. (IIT Bombay); Ph. D. (TIFR Mumbai)
Position: Professor
Chennai Mathematical Institute
V. Sundar*
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Bombay); Ph.D. (University of Chicago)
Sanjay Tambwekar
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (North Carolina State University);
Position: CTO
Qwikcilver Solutions, Bengaluru
Amaldev V.*
Education: B.Tech(Govt. Engg. College Barton Hill, Trivandrum) M. Tech. (IIT-Bombay);
Position: Engineering Lead
ACPAD Instruments, Mumbai
Vibha Apte-Gaitonde
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Oregon Health and Science University);
Position: TPM, Technical Infrastructure Deployment Engineering
Google, Mountain View
Hanmant P. Belgal
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (North Carolina State University);
Position: Principal Engineer
Intel Co., Sacramento
Rema Hariharan
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University); Ph. D. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill);
Position: Senior Principal Data Scientist
eBay, Austin
Milind Kandlikar
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Bombay); Ph. D. (Carnegie Mellon University);
Position: Professor, Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability
University of British Columbia
Manisha Kher
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Syracuse University);
Position: Senior Principal Software Engineer
New York Genome Center
Nasir Memon
Education: B. Eng. and M. S. (BITS-Pilani); Ph. D. (University of Nebraska);
Position: Professor, Computer Science and Engineering,
New York University (Brooklyn)
Varun Nagaraj
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (North Carolina State University); MBA (Boston University);
Position: President and CEO
Sierra Monitor Corporation, Milpitas
Bhagirath Narahari
Education: B. Tech (BITS-Pilani); M. S and Ph. D. (University of Pennsylvania);
Position: Professor, Computer Science
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Gurumurthy Ramachandran
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University); Ph. D. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill);
Position: Professor, Environmental Health and Engineering
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
Pankaj Rohatgi
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Delhi); Ph. D. (Cornell University);
Position: Fellow, Security Technology
Rambus Cryptography Research Division, San Francisco Bay Area
Sanjay Sarma
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Kanpur); M. E. (Carnegie Mellon University); Ph. D. (University of California, Berkeley)
Position: Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston
Amitabh Shah
Education: M. Sc. (IIT-Kanpur); M. S. and Ph. D. (Cornell University);
Position: Strategic Business Development Consultant to software companies
San Francisco Bay Area
Anil M. Shende
Education: M.Sc. (BITS-Pilani); M. S and Ph. D. (State University on New York at Buffalo);
Position: Professor of Computer Science
Roanoke College
Ramesh Subramonian*
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Bombay); Ph.D. (University of California at Davis)
Position: Distinguished Engineer
NerdWallet Inc, San Francisco
Gitanjali Swamy
Education: B. Tech (IIT-Kanpur); Ph. D. (University of California, Berkeley); MBA (Harvard);
Position: Director of Special Projects, Private Capital Research Institute at Harvard Business School
Poorvi L. Vora
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Cornell); M. S. and Ph. D. (North Carolina State University);
Position: Professor, Computer Science
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Arun Yethiraj
Education: B. Tech. (IIT-Bombay); M. S. (Louisiana State University); Ph. D. (North Carolina State University);
Position: Meloche-Bascom Professor of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Source: Poorvi Vora Homepage

India, Travel

Weekend getaways to visit over the weekend in Delhi, India

There are several places  to visit over the weekend or for a day trip from Delhi. Here is a list primarily for myself and friends of such places. These include mostly places that I have visited myself.

Please note that several of these places would be done better, if you include an extra day i.e friday or monday or do it over a long weekend of 4-5 days as traffic and road conditions make it difficult to cover much distance for a reasonable trip in India unlike US or other western countries.

Weekend Trips

Common ones, first choice, if you haven’t seen them before:

Itinerary I:

* Agra – Famous for Tajmahal & Fatehpur Sikri (which is about 25 km from Agra). Agra is appx 200 km from Delhi & it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours on average each side.

* Mathura & Vrindavan – It is en-route to Agra from Delhi – Appx 150 km from Delhi. It is famous for temples & ashrams & birth place of Lord Krishna. A good place to visit, if you into this but can skip, if you are not too fond of crowded places. It can get very crowded especially on weekends.

You can do both Agra & Mathura in one day, if you leave early or you can spread it over 2 days.

Itinerary 2:

* Jaipur – Appx 200 km from Delhi in Rajasthan, famous for its palaces, handicrafts, Rajasthani food & culture.

* Ajmer Sharif – Appx 50 km from Jaipur, Holy shrine of Khwaja Ajmer sharif attracts a lot of visitors. It is one of most sacred shrines in India.

* Pushkar – Appx 20 Km from Ajmer sharif, famous for its Bramha temple, food & culture that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is probably one of the most visited (among lesser known places) by foreign tourists.

Jaipur, Ajmer Sharif & Pushkar can be done in appx 3-4 days comfortably. If you want to cover other places in Rajasthan  (which are certainly worth visiting) such as Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer etc you need several additional days.


If you love mountains or are planning to travel in summers, here are the destinations up north. Again, first the most popular but a bit crowded ones:

Shimla: Appx 250 km from Delhi in Himachal Pradesh – Good Road, you can reach in appx 7 hours. It used to summer capital of India during British Rule. It still is a very popular choice to beat heat of people from Delhi & nearby areas. Shimla has several places nearby for local sightseeing. You can do Shimla in 2 days, but a 3 day weekend would be better.

Mussorie: Appx 250 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station has good hotels & sight seeing. Can get crowded during summers so try to do hotel booking in advance. It would take appx 3 days to cover Mussourie & nearby places.

Nainital: Appx 300 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station surrounding a lake with many nearby local sightseeing places. You need appx 3-4 days for Nainital.

Landsdown: Appx 200 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a quiet militray cantonment can be done. Make sure you don’t reach there after 6pm as most of the market closes by then. Leave Delhi early morning so that you can reach Landsdown by noon.

Kasauli – Kasauli is also a miltiray cantonment hill station in Himachal Pradesh, 50 km before shimla. You can leave friday after noon. A quiet place with nice weather.

Chail – 40 Km from Kasauli on route to Shimla is also a good hill station in Himachal pradesh. There are about a dozen hotels to choose from. Can be done in 2-3 days & can be combined with Kasuali & shimla if you have additional days.

Parwanoo – Timber trail resort in Parwanoo is a recent destination that has become favorite among weekend travelers. The resort is great with awesome views. You reach the resort via a Gandola. Advance booking of the resort is highly recommended.

Other destinations that one can cover over the weekend or in 3-4-5 days are Chandigarh, Amritsar in Punjab. Dalhousie, Kulu, Manali, Dharamshala, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

Rishikesh & Kudiala: Rishikesh (Shivpuri) & Kudiala have surfaced as very popular destination for river rafting among adventure seeking travelers. Shivpuri is appx 240 km from Delhi. This itenerary can comfortably done in a regular weekend. If you leave on friday afternoon, you can reach Rishikesh late night, can do rafting for 2 days i.e sat / sunday & come back by sunday evening. There are dozens of tour organizers for river rafting and camping for Shivpuri & Kudiala. They charge anywhere between INT 2000 – 4000 per person for the whole weekend including camping in tents, rafting & meals. You can also contact Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), govt of Utrakhand for booking of the package.

There are many other exotic places if you have a few more days i.e 5-7 days that I would cover in one of the other posts. Feel free to ask questions or clarifications via comments.


Blogosphere, corruption, India

Dr. Naresh Trehan & Medanta Medicity Management, Please Fix your hospital’s parking staff

Update (Jul 4th, 11) : After about 10 days, since Dr. Nalini Jain, Director, Medanta Hospital Contacted me, I am yet to hear regarding any response or update regarding any inquiry or action, whatsoever. Still Waiting for any response from Medanta 😦

Update (Jun 24th, 11) : Dr. Nalini Jain, Director, Medanta Hospital Contacted me & asked me further details about the experience, She consented that the behaviour of Parking Manager Mr. Rakesh Ranjan was extremely disrespectful and improper. The Medanta hospital doesn’t condone or approved of such rude behaviour to the visitors to the hospital, who anyway may be going through some distress upon arrival to the hospital. She assured me to look into this matter & take necessary action. I am glad to have talked to her and look forward for some real action.

Respected Dr. Trehan & Medanta Management Team,

First of all, I would like to congratulate & thank you from deep of my heart for having setup, such an esteemed medical institution, The Medanta medicity in Gurgaon, which has been a boon not only to Gurgaon / NCR residents but to patients from all across India and abroad.

I myself, have gone there a number of times and found the doctors, administrative staff, nurses, housekeeping, radiology, sample collection, cafeteria and all others staff extremely courteous, polite & helpful. My experience has been more than fulfilling & I thank you for the same.

On several occasions, I parked my car on the surface parking and there has never been any issues and the staff was very helpful. Today, I went there for some blood tests and to meet my doctor again & happen to decide to park in the under-ground parking.

That is when, a nightmare, which I wouldn’t even expect even from the worst of worst hospitals in India started. On basement 1, there were a number of vacant parking slots available but those were being cordoned by ropes and a few cars were being allowed, reasons best known to the parking attendants. I inquired, if I can park here as I was getting late for appointment, but was very rudely told that this floor is reserved for staff only and I need to go further down. When all over the campus, it is mentioned that the underground parking is Rs 20/-, It was beyond my understanding why the first floor was reserved for staff.

Upon asking, why some cars are being allowed, I was told that they are staff or they are pass holders. Never the less, I went one floor below again and wanted to park in the early free slots available but then again, I was told that I need to go further down and these are reserved. Again note, there were more than ample parking spaces available but they were cordoned by ropes. I asked to talk to supervisor but wasn’t allowed to do so.

Finally I parked my car & then I went up and then I wanted to meet the Parking Manager Mr. Rakesh Ranjan. I was hoping that he would at-least listen to my grievance but to my extreme surprise, he started giving me excuses that these spaces that are cordoned by ropes are meant for doctors. Upon my asking, where is it not mentioned that they are reserved for doctors, he said that the boards are damaged and we would get new boards. He was extremely rude in his language.

He even showed me a Mercedes and said this is Mr. Trehan’s Mercedes and how can you park next to it. OMG !!

I asked his manager number & he told me that he is not in India, albeit he gave me the name Mr. Rajiv Kaushik and some email address, which proved to be invalid.

Respected Sir: After this experience, I am having serious thoughts of ever visiting Medanta again as the same doctors are available in nearby hospitals also. In any case, I am not going to park my car in Medanta compound.

I am extremely surprised that such a reputed hospital has such a poorly managed underground parking and if I may say so, some goons running the parking lot. (please note, I am only talking about underground parking. my experience with surface parking has been satisfactory & without any issues so far). Hope you would look into this matter.



Blogosphere, hindi, hindu, history, India, politics

Arundhati Roy – A writer, India & Kashmir

Arundhati Roy , one of my favorite writers & booker award winner for her first book, is in news this week about her statement about Kashmir not essentially an “Integral” part of India & there is a huge uproar that she be booked (along with Geelani) for sedition again India.

This is ridiculous to think that if India really wants to be India & not afganistan & pakistan. Moreover the timing of this is completely political. You can see her interview for 1 and a 1/2 year back & there is nothing different that she is saying now.

Blogosphere, desi, India, politics

Arundhati Roy’s interview with naxalites in Dantewada

As always Arundhati Roy writes a really thought provoking narrate of her interview with Naxalites in Dantewada  (yeah, where 70+ security personnel were gunned down by naxals earlier this month). Published in the Outlook magazine, on March 25th, it is a great essay about tribal suppression by their own government & then of tribal uprising. Arundhari, minces no words in this highly thought provoking essay.

Here are some excerpts from the essay:

There are many ways to describe Dantewada. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a border town smack in the heart of India. It’s the epicentre of a war. It’s an upside down, inside out town.

In Dantewara the police wear plain clothes and the rebels wear uniforms. The jail-superintendant is in jail. The prisoners are free (three hundred of them escaped from the old town jail two years ago). Women who have been raped are in police custody. The rapists give speeches in the bazaar.”

Across the Indravati river, in the area controlled by the Maoists, is the place the police call “Pakistan”. There the villages are empty, but the forest is full of people. Children who ought to be in school, run wild.”  Here is the link to the Complete article