We at Mathschool worked today 28th July 2015 as a mark of respect to that great soul who was my inspiration in many ways.
My research years were so memorable mostly because of these events that always circled about this one great personality!
It was the first conference on “Number Theory for Secure Communications” organized by SASTRA Kumbakonam. It was inaugurated on 20th December 2003 by His Excellency, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India.
I was seated in the audience when he gave his speech.
“Dream, Dream, Dream,
Dreams transform into thoughts,
And thoughts result in action.”
All of us repeated it after him.
And then we were all taken to the house of Srinivasa Ramanujam, purchased and renovated by SASTRA that was also inaugurated by His Excellency.
The last day of the conference, a pamphlet was handed over to me, and the phrase that I caught sight of was “brainchild of Abdul Kalam”. Having known about the organisation only few months ago I was excited. Set that as my goal.
Then came in December the Indocrypt 2004
I was again one among the audience totally charmed by his absolute simplicity. We were asked to give our questions to the President. My question was accepted and the second in line out of the ten.
” What are the measures taken by the Centre in the area of cryptographic e-voting techniques? ”
I heard my voice reverberate in the IMSc auditorium. The thoughts that ran through my mind….
Am I actually talking to The President ??
I wish my mom were here. She would be smiling from way up there. Just wait until my dad hears about this and the rest of the folks at home. Would they believe me?
Atleast I didn’t faint! And then after sometime it seemed like he was nodding his head. Just took the cue as the end of the answer, Said a thank you, handed over the microphone and sat down. Now was that embarrassing?! I don’t even vaguely remember what he said. Not then and not now! Who cares!! I still did get the attention of The President. And the after effects were a lot more interesting…”Hey! that’s the girl who spoke to the President!”
I had to carry this news home. And the next day there it was in the news: The Hindu
Well it was all so inspiring and I wrote out this article for The Hindu Sci-Tech page hoping that it will be published on time for many to know that we were hosts to the Asiacrypt in 2005.
Much to my disappointment this was what was published (that too after the conference ended)
Cryptography in eVoting
instead of this:
Cryptography in eVoting
The greatest challenge in eVoting is to develop a fully secure system that preserves the anonymity of the voter and the vote and also provides a universally verifiable process for tallying and verifying the proof of correctness of the votes. This would improve the integrity of the system and increase public confidence in the process of voting. As a result eVoting systems in recent years have shown an increasing trend towards the use of the science of cryptography. The popularity in the use of Cryptography in eVoting was evident in the use of the Diebold Electronic Voting Machines for the 2004 U.S.Elections. But it was Brazil that set an example to the entire world by the accelerated pace at which they replaced their legacy systems with fully computerized eBalloting in their 2000 elections.
Cryptography in eVoting
Cryptography is the science of disguising messages using either a single key or a public-private key pair. The system where a single key is used to encrypt as well as decrypt the message is called a Symmetric Key Cryptosystem and that which uses a pair of keys, one for encryption and another for decryption is called the Public Key Cryptosystem. The key that is public knowledge is called the public key and the key that is kept secret is called the private key. eVoting systems can be made public key cryptosystems where their security depends on the hardness of mathematical problems such as the discrete log problem in Elliptic Curve groups.
Fully secure eVoting systems recommended by Cryptographers are the Mixnets, the Homomorphic Encryption and Threshold cryptosystems. The Mixnets are multiparty computation and communication protocol where the encrypted ballots are shuffled so that they cannot be traced to their respective voters. But this can be done only after all votes are cast and involves exorbitant computations and time delay. Homomorphic Encryption is a classic method that binds the voter to the vote. In this scheme, it is possible to tally the votes without decrypting the individual vote. This preserves the secrecy of the eBallot. If the election official is dishonest the individual votes can be revealed. To reduce this risk the decryption key may be shared among several election officials that can be combined later using a Threshold Cryptosystem.
However, difficulties in translating social policies into computer procedures have seen the implementation of other systems of evoting called the Receipt System. A device that resembles a small cash register printer generates a printout that consists of information on the candidate voted for, the party affiliation etc. But these schemes violate the secrecy of the eBallot.
Now which of the above eVoting systems will suit our nation is for the experts to decide Our progress in the area of Cryptology has been tremendous in the last few years under the guidance and unrelenting effort of the Cryptology Research Society of India. Chennai plays a key role as the headquarters of the Society for Electronic Transactions and Security (SETS). The International Conference on Cryptology – Asiacrypt 2005, is also to be held in the first week of December at Chennai. The availability of in-house expertise and IT manpower is an advantage. The step towards a progressive and transparent democracy should begin here.
K.P.Vidya, Research Scholar, Department of Mathematics, Madras Christian College, Chennai
Well, am I glad that I can now put up the unedited version for all to read. [Needless to say my faith in humans dipped low soon after that and little did I know that that particular incident was just the beginning.]
Even during my visits to present papers at other conferences, there would definitely be atleast one person in the crowd who would stand up and let the audience know how much he or she admired Dr.A.P.J.A.Kalam. and how they dreamed of India 2020.
Then came the interview in 2006. (Was it June or July?) Yep. I was sitting inside the boardroom of this organization, brainchild of Dr.Kalam. I had applied for a job and was called for the interview when one of the interviewers mentioned that many thought this office was the backdoor to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Now was it or was it not?!
emails sent to Rashtrapathi Bhavan might have hit the forward button yet there was positive change that cared for our nation.
If that burning desire to pursue research continued to exist in me then it was only because of this great soul who I am certain will light the path for many more new entrants in research.
A few years after receiving my Doctorate, I’d gifted my dad with Dr.Kalam’s “Wings of Fire” and the first line Dad said to me was “He’s my age.” and for Dr.Kalam too to take leave in the month of July, exactly two years after Dad, perhaps it was Destiny!
Great souls don’t just die. They scatter their energy to millions and those worthy of them acquire their qualities! RIP Dr.Kalam.