Lucknow: If some unscrupulous elements in the prosthetic industry have their way, voter fraud could soon go out of hand, literally.
A discreet investigation by India Today has unearthed a ring of prosthetic suppliers who, by their own admission on camera, are selling silicone fingers to political parties trying to rig UP elections.
Demands for their wares have shot up, they revealed, with leaders ordering them in bulk for their teams to cast multiple votes by masking their fingers bearing the indelible ink-mark with prostheses.
Regarded as a badge of democratic privilege, the finger dye prevents voters from re-voting. But India Today’s reporters found this conservative anti-fraud measure might itself be under threat now.
Suppliers of prosthetic body parts, which the network’s special investigation team probed, reported brisk business because of current elections.
Shambhu Kumar Yadav, a consultant at Delhi’s Born Life, disclosed a prominent political party of Uttar Pradesh has placed big orders for silicone fingers with his artificial limbs company.
“The fact is the xxxx has made the largest purchases. I won’t lie. This all will also go to the xxxx,” he claimed.
If he was to be believed, crooks are procuring prosthetic fingers to trick poll officials into allowing them in election booths for multiple voting, possibly in multiple booths.
Prosthetic consultants at P&O International Inc operating from Delhi’s Vimhans hospital quoted a price of Rs 1.10 lakh for 10 silicone fingers. They were aware the product would be used for possible fraud in elections.
“When you punch (biometric devices), it’s scanned. You can’t, therefore, use it for punching. In voting, they just leave an ink mark. They won’t be able to identify by touch,” said Namrata of P&O International Inc at Vimhans. Her boss, Dibakar Patra, promised deliveries in four days.
“You are getting one index finger made in multiples of five for two,” said Namrata. “You (one person) can cast your vote five times,” explained Patra.
Distributors of prosthetics like Patra were not only ready to hawk fake fingers to facilitate bogus voting, they also give a thorough demo about how to use them.
Shambhu Kumar Yadav of Born Life was upbeat about sales. “The truth is we just got orders for 500 fingers from Lucknow. I am telling you the truth,” he said. “Keep these products with you and use them. No other party should be approaching you. You do your work and leave (the scene). I’ll have the colour (of the fake finger) match (with the skin) as much as 90 percent,” added Yadav.
He said he received a single order from a political party for 300 pieces. Agendra Kumar, a senior consultant at Delhi’s Ideal Artificial Limb Solution, also spoke about heavy demand because of UP elections.
“I am now running away. There’s so much of demand from the xxxx,” he said, naming a political party of Uttar Pradesh.
No one has so far been detected wearing fake fingers while voting, he said. Kumar also explained the modus, suggesting a private hospital place order with his company for bulk imports of the prostheses.
“It will be better to get them imported. There won’t be any problem later,” he said. Kumar demanded all his payment in cash for the procurement and supplies.
“You will be required to give us the address of a hospital with import permit. I’ll let you know of some other documents which might also be needed,” said Kumar.
Not just elections, artificial limbs could also be widely misused in various other sectors, such as recruitment drives.
Anupriya Chauhan, another consultant at Ideal Artificial Limb Solution, revealed their clients include police and army aspirants.
“It (fake fingers) won’t be identified in voting. There’s hardly any scrutiny. People (with defected limbs) wear them in (medical) examination for police and army recruitment drives and clear them. As such, there shouldn’t be any issue in voting. Go there, cast it and come back,” she said.
“Licence is not allowed to any applicant for auto-rickshaw driving in Delhi who has two fingers missing. But they wear these artificial fingers and get clearance,” Chauhan added.
After India Today broadcast the investigation, Vimhans denied its involvement in the wrongdoing, saying the hospital only extended office space to Patra to serve the patients for prosthetic consultancy. “The hospital has no involvement in whatever claims he has made,” Vimhans spokesman Pramod Tripathi told India Today.
No one was available for comment at Born Life when India Today reached its office for the company’s reaction.
Ideal Artificial Limb Solution’s Anupriya Chauhan said she was not authorized to speak on-the-record about India Today’s probe.
The global prosthetic industry has advanced phenomenally over the past 70 years. From wooden limbs, for example, to body-powered, bionic feel-like-real artificial parts, prostheses have come a long way.
According to industry experts, amputees have now a wide variety to choose from and customize their prosthetics.