Nation
Goa's top election official bats for paper ballot
Electronic voting machines, or EVMs, may have made the conduct of elections easy and tamper-proof, but Goa's top polling official says the use of the traditional ballot paper is both cheaper and better suited for small states.
 
State Election Commissioner M. Modassir should know. He has just conducted the Zilla Panchayat election, using the good old ballot paper.
 
A total of 66.43 percent of the voters turned out. This was a 12 percent rise in voting percentage compared to the Zila Panchayat election in Goa of 2010. There are 50 Zila Panchayat constituencies in Goa's two districts. Each Zila Panchayat covers three panchayats.
 
Modassir said he found no point in going for the electronic voting machines (EVM) as a "fashion".
 
"Why to burden the government just by what you will call 'joining the fashion' when I can manage with the old style ballot papers?" Modassir told IANS.
 
The official said that using EVMs to hold elections was an expensive affair. While it suited big states with a large voter base, he felt that they made no sense for small states with sparse population like Goa. "The maintenance cost of these machines, the cost of calling the engineers, re-calibrating them, everything is very high.
 
"So, at the end of the day, I feel satisfied that the elections were held without spending a huge amount of taxpayers' money," Modassir said.
 
According to him, while the cost of conducting the Zila Panchayat election using ballot paper was about Rs.2 crore, it would have cost the state government Rs.5 crore to organise the election with EVMs.
 
EVMs were first used as a pilot project in 1989. Over the years, they have become a steady fixture in the national and state elections because they are said to be tamper proof.
 
EVMs also make the vote count an easy affair. Counting hundreds of thousands of ballot papers manually can be a mammoth task.
 
He added that the EVMs with the Goa government were old and many were outdated.
 
"When we can manage the election (with ballot paper), why should I spend another four or four crores (of rupees) on buying new machines?"
 
There were challenges, he said, which had to be overcome and extra preparations had to be made to make the poll by paper ballot successful in the age of the EVM.
 
"You have to re-orient polling personnel. They are used to machines," Modassir said.
 
"Had the constituencies (ZP constituencies of Goa) had 250,000 voters, had the population of Goa been, let's say, 5.5 million, I would have had no option but to go for that (EVM).
 
"But we have managed. We increased the number of polling booths from 950 (in 2010) to 1,208 and everything got over nicely," he said.

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'I just got shot!' US boy posts bloody selfie online
A 20-year-old US student who was shot in the shoulder decided to post a smiling selfie with the bleeding gunshot wound on social media rather than calling for medical help.
 
Arizona-based restaurant worker Isaac Martinez was shot during the deadly Arizona rampage this week.
 
Instead of calling 911, the first thing he did was reach for his smartphone and post a bloody selfie on social media app Snapchat, Mirror.co.uk reported.
 
The selfie-savvy college student did not just stop there and continued updating his harrowing ordeal online as he was being taken to the hospital, posting a series of bloody selfies
 
Once in the hospital, he shared another selfie which showed him lying in bed bare-chested with a white dressing on his bloodied shoulder.
 
A friend even turned one of his hospital snapshots into a meme, showing Martinez with a painted-on cigarette and dark sunglasses along with the caption that read "Thug Life".
 
After being released from the hospital, Martinez again updated his condition, saying that the bullet struck him from behind and exited out of his collar area.
 
"I was the only one injured. Everyone else was unharmed. Overall, I'm glad it went the way it did rather than any other way," the 20-year-old posted.
 
Police have arrested Ryan Giroux, 41, who is suspected of killing a man and injuring five others, including Martinez during the rampage.
 
Martinez was on his way to the eatery where he works part-time when Giroux allegedly confronted him in the parking lot and demanded his car, the report added.
 

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Mining leases for minerals may soon go coal block auction way
The bill for development of mines and minerals, to bring a regime of auctioning blocks for prospecting, was passed by parliament on Friday even as opposition parties, notably Congress and Left Front, demanded a re-look by the select committee.
 
The bill was first put for voting in the Rajya Sabha after debate and 117 members were in its favour and 69 against it, but not before Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar moved two amendments, based on the suggestions of the relevant select committee.
 
Accordingly, it was taken up again by the Lok Sabha -- which had already passed its original form on March 3 -- and it was again okayed by a voice vote after a brief discussion.
 
Minister Tomar said he was happy that the select panel made the suggestions, which the government accepted. "These are good provisions. I am happy the Rajya Sabha endorsed it. But basic thrust has not changed," he said.
 
Once the bill gets presidential consent, the new legislation will replace the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Ordinance of 2015), promulgated on January 12.
 
Earlier, the select panel had sent the bill back on March 18 without changes. But it wanted the government to consider issues like impact of mining on the environment, illegal mining, lack of scientific methods, land acquisition and resettlement and use of windfall profits for local and tribal welfare.
 
Tomar said the new bill takes into account most of the recommendations of the select committee and will allow states to have a say in the auction and all revenues will go to them. "Mining contributes over 2 percent to the GDP, but is in deep crisis. It is one of the biggest employers. A revival will give jobs to our youth."
 
He said there was also an urgent need for a transparent system. Taking the example of iron ore production, he said it was a matter of concern that its production had declined to 152 million tonnes in 2013-14 from 218 million tonnes in 2009-10.
 
Primarily, the new bill seeks to introduce a regime of auction to grant prospecting licences, like for coal blocks. It proposes that there will no renewal of mining concessions, unlike the original act of 1957. But it proposes a licence for 50 years as against 30 now.
 
The government has already identified 199 mines for auction.
 
The proposed legislation also calls for the setting up of a District Mineral Foundation where mining takes place that will address the grievances of the people affected by mining, with a contribution not exceeding a third of the royalty rate.
 
Another body, the National Mineral Exploration Trust, shall be appointed by the central government for regional and pan-India planning.
 
Some opposition parties, led by the Biju Janata Dal, opposed it saying it infringed on the rights of states -- a stand earlier supported by the Congress and Trinamool Congress. The opposition had also prevented its introduction in the Rajya Sabha where the treasury is in minority.
 
But on Friday, the Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party supported it.
 
Among its other salient features, the new act, once in force, will add a new schedule to include mining of bauxite, iron ore, limestone and manganese ore, now called notified minerals, under its purview.
 
The new act will call for state governments to grant mining leases and prospecting license-cum-mining leases for notified and other minerals, with the central government's approval, which will prescribe the terms and conditions for selection of bidders as also the procedure for auction.
 
The central government may also reserve some mines exclusively for some specific purposes, as also set the eligibility conditions for the same.
 
To plug another loophole that leads to arbitrariness, the central government will be permitted to increase the area allowed for mining, instead of granting additional leases.
 
Presently, while 10 sq km is set as maximum limit for prospecting per lessee, a leeway is given to alter this.
 

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