The Central government has been facing flak from the Opposition over the Pegasus Project Report which claims that the database was used to allegedly spy on over 300 citizens, including 40 journalists, businesspersons, and politicians of the country. Opposition parties including the CPI(M), TMC, Congress, and Shiv Sena have been targeting the Centre over the Pegasus row and have also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the snoopgate.
The Centre, however categorically denied the allegations and hit back saying the report emerged just a day before the Monsoon session, indicating that the controversy was planted to disrupt the Parliament session.
Now TMC MP Yashwant Sinha has come up with a new argument over the Pegasus snoopgate row. Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Sinha stated that if smartphones can be manipulated by Pegasus spyware, so can Electronic Voter Machines, so the country should ‘immediately shift to ballot papers.’
If smart phones can be manipulated by Pegasus so can EVMs. Let us shift immediately to ballot papers.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) July 20, 2021
The former Union Minister, who recently switched to the Trinamool Congress, raised doubts over the safety of EVM machines, despite his party having won a comfortable majority in the recently-held West Bengal Assembly elections.
Calling out Yashwant Sinha over his silly argument, Twitter users suggested the use of ‘birch bark’ instead of ballot papers, or Nokia 3310, instead of the smartphone to prevent ‘hacking’. Another user commented, “Even voters can be hypnotized.. you can consider bringing monarchy then.”
Here’s how netizens reacted to Yashwant Sinha’s tweet
@ECISVEEP He is saying that his party hacked EVMs and won elections in Bengal. Please take action.
— dimaagkoshot (@dimaagkoshot) July 20, 2021
Even after winning WB ? You mean to say you won because the machines were hacked?
Also, BJP hacked the machines to ensure they lose in TN and Kerala?
Sir, aap too much ho..
— S S Singh.🇮🇳 (@Singh2639) July 20, 2021
Even missiles and guns can be hacked. I say we move back to sticks and stones to save our borders. 👍👍
— Ashutosh Bhatt (@roguedoga) July 20, 2021
Even voters can be hypnotised.. you can consider bringing monarchy then..
— Madhur Saxena (@madhursaxena39) July 20, 2021
Shift to Nokia 3310 first.
— Dr. Vedika (@vishkanyaaaa) July 20, 2021
Even computers, servers can be hacked. So we should go back to typewriters, eh? #MadarsaLogic
— TrOLL PLAZA (@1passdaily) July 20, 2021
What is the Pegasus row?
Several international and domestic media houses released a report claiming that 300 verified Indian mobile telephone numbers were allegedly spied upon using Israeli surveillance software Pegasus – which only has 36 vetted governments as its clients. As per a ‘leaked’ database of 50,000 phone numbers globally which were allegedly the targets of snooping through Pegasus, numbers of those allegedly spied upon include over 40 journalists, businessmen, politicians, and cabinet ministers from India. The target also includes the eight activists currently accused of the Bhima Koregaon case.
NSO Group – the Israeli firm that developed and owns the spyware – has refuted all the allegations of the speculative and inconclusive report.
The Centre has also denied allegations of spying on individuals using the Pegasus spyware. In a rebuttal, the Centre highlighted the Personal Data Protection Bill (2019) currently in the works. Dismissing the opposition’s claims, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that the government was committed to free speech and pointed out that the Centre’s RTI response to the use of Pegasus was itself sufficient.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee led by Congress leader Tharoor has decided to hold a meeting on July 28. The Committee will hold the meeting on the subject of ‘Citizen’s data security and privacy’. The meeting will also be attended by officials from the Ministry of Information Technology and Home Ministry. The decision to hold a meeting came soon after the opposition upped the ante over the row during the Parliament’s Monsoon Session.