Published On : Tue, Dec 12th, 2017

Gujarat’s Rs 20,000 crore gas scam and malfunctioning EVMs: Are they connected?


Post election results in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab this year and, more recently, the ongoing campaigning for Gujarat assembly polls, have raised two very pertinent national issues affecting the freedom and rights of every citizen of the country.

1. GSPC SCAM: CAG reported Rs 20000 crore loss to Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd (GSPC) during the time of Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat. Congress has alleged a scam as the party targetted Modi and the companies that were selected arbitrarily. The biggest beneficiary from the so called Gujarat Gas Scam was one Barbados /Mauritius based company “Geo Global Resources”.

2. Allegations of EVM Tampering: Unending allegations by all parties except the BJP have been raised questioning the integrity and credibility of the Electronic Voting Machines also known as EVMs. More than the Election Commission, the BJP has been defending the infallibility of the EVM.

Janta Ka Reporter has been looking into the ownership patterns of both the Geo Global Resources and the EVM microchip manufacturing company in USA. Our report raises questions about whether the beneficiaries of the GSPC scam and those responsible for manufacturing the microchips for India’s EVMs are connetced.

GSPC Scam through Geo Global Resources leads to Microchip Inc, USA

As per the CAG report, the exploration activities undertaken by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation on KG Basin led to a government loss of over Rs 20,000 crore and did not result in any fruitful oil production. Geo-Global Resources (formerly a social media and publishing company known as was a private company listed in Barbados and based in Ahmedabad when it was taken as the private exploratory partner without any transparent bidding. In return to its services, it was also offered 10% stake in GSPC.

Geo-Global Resources, without any previous credentials and proven track record, was co-opted while ONGC, despite being more qualified for the same role, was ignored. Congress has alleged that Geo-Global Resources was a fraud company, which was instrumental in siphoning off millions of dollars of public money in the name of exploration activity and consultation.

Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, had said last year that Geo Global was chosen “secretly” without following any transparent procedure and contrary to established principles.

Quoting the CAG report Ramesh had said, “This crony capitalism has been taken to another height of plunder of public money by the Gujarat government and GSPC investing ₹1,734.60 crore from public exchequer on behalf of GeoGlobal Resources without recovering a single penny.”

ONGC, which was overlooked in favour of a start-up company Geo Global Resources, is now being asked to take over the entire losses of GSPC. Incidentally, the Centre’s BJP government had recently appointed its fiery spokesperson Sambit Patra as one of the directors of ONGC.

We tracked the details of Geo Global Resources, India as a company. Geo Global Resources (India) was found to be listed in Barbados with its parent company Geo Global Resources Inc, headquartered in Calgary, Canada. Interestingly, Geo Global Resources Inc is a subsidiary of Key Capital Corp, a financial group in USA. The ownership pattern of Key Corp and Microchip Inc, USA that manufactures microchips for the EVMs used in India is strikingly similar. (See the graph below)

As per the details available, one of the manufacturers of EVM Micro-Controller is The Microchip Inc, USA. It is headed by an NRI Billionaire Steve Sanghi, who hails from Haryana and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Communication from Punjab University. The President and Chief Operating Officer of the same company is another NRI, Ganesh Moorthy, who holds a B.Sc. degree in physics from the University of Bombay.

Steve Sanghi of Microchip Inc, USA

Not only does Microchip Inc supply the microchip used in Indian EVMs but it also writes the software programme on the microchip before sealing it in a way that no one, not even the Election Commission or Bharat Electronics Limited and or Electronics Corporation of India Ltd can read the programme.

The Common Ownership Pattern of Key Corp and The Microchip Inc
When we went through the NASDAQ website, it showed a startling similarity between the owners of both companies. This leads us to a very dangerous conclusion that there may exist a strong possibility of Multinational Companies and Financial Institutions controlling the Indian democracy through EVMs.

Geo Global Resources has Key Capital Group as its parent organisation. The institutional ownership pattern of Key Capital Corp, when checked on the NASDAQ website, reveals that global financial giants that own Key Corp also own ‘The Microchip Inc’ which is headed by two NRIs. Therefore, the beneficiary of GSPC Scam happens to be the owners of EVM chip manufacturing company. This is a scary proposition considering widespread speculation that EVMs are somehow manipulating the results to benefit the BJP in recent elections since 2014.

Importance of EVM microchip
The EVM machine has two units: Control Unit and Ballot Unit. Control Unit is the computer which has its CPU built inside the Microchip Controller (MCU) and the Ballot Unit is the key board. Put simply, the MCU is the brain of the EVM. The software called the Machine Code, when written over the MCU decides all its functionalities. As a security measure for EVMs’ Source Code, this MCU after getting coded is fused or burnt so that the Machine Code can never be read back and duplicated or modified.

Election Commission (EC) developed its Software Programme with the help of few BEL and ECIL scientists with un-impeachable integrity, at least that’s what the poll body claims. The EC has time and again maintained that the source code of an EVM was a ‘top secret.’ It is so secretive that not even the EC has a copy. The importance of this source code is self-explanatory but if those scientists and the employees of BEL and ECIL ever breached the security protocol, the EVM is compromised. Let’s assume that even a billion dollar bribe cannot buy these scientists and assume that EVM source code has not been compromised at this level.

EC then outsourced the procurement of the MCU or microchip to foreign vendors namely Renesas Japan and Microchip Inc, USA since no company in India had the sophisticated technology to produce microchips or MCU. However, for some reasons best known to the EC they also outsourced the task to write the source code on the microchip to these foreign vendors.

The EC in its FAQ, published by the government’s publicity department, PIB, says, ” The Software Programme Code is written in-house, by these two companies (BEL and ECIL) , not outsourced, and subjected to security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity. The programme is converted into machine code and only then given to the chip manufacturer abroad because we don’t have the capability of producing semi-conductor microchips within the country.”

It is here that the Election Commission gives a misleading declaration and false assurance. Because what the EC doesn’t say is that the programme code, which is written in binary language, can be read and tinkered by the microchip manufacturing companies. These manufacturing companies abroad can tinker with the programme in order to suit the interests of a certain political party.

These are some of the probabilities of how the programme codes can be tinkered with.

  • Transfer a percentage of votes from other candidates in favour of one political party 24 hours after the machine has been turned off
  • Transfer a percentage of votes from other candidates in favour of one political party once the machine has been turned on after votes having been cast

Since the microchip manufacturing companies in the US and Japan deliver microchips in a sealed condition, even the EC is not in a position to verify if its original programme code, prepared by its scientists at BEL and ECIL have been modified.

The EC has till date has ALSO not explained if it ever performed any background checks on Sanghi and Moorthy. The disturbing similarity in the ownership pattern between the beneficiaries of the Gujarat’s gas scam and the companies that produced microchips will now cast a shadow of doubt on the authenticity of India’s EVMs.

—Article as published in JKR is been republished below