Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi has requested the Union Law Ministry for urgent release of funds, given the “prevailing environment,” to facilitate procurement of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Amid protests by Opposition parties against electronic voting machines (EVMs) without paper trail units, Mr. Zaidi said the EC felt that the procurement of VVPAT machines could not be delayed any longer.
Over 16 lakh VVPATs would be required, at an estimated cost of ₹3,174 crore, to cover all polling stations in the next Lok Sabha polls.
The EC had earlier informed the government that if the order for the machines was not placed by February, it would become difficult for the manufacturers to supply them by September 2018 to meet the requirement of the next general elections.
It also placed on record the Supreme Court’s direction to state the rough schedule within which the entire system could be introduced, subject to the sanction of funds. The machines can be manufactured within 30 months from the date of release of funds, the EC said.
The letter said the EC was fully committed to deploying VVPATs along with EVMs in all future elections so that transparency of the electoral process is enhanced, integrity of the voting preserved, and the voters’ confidence in the process is further strengthened.
Call for paper ballot
The Commission had recently received a memorandum from 16 parties demanding that the paper ballot system be reintroduced for greater transparency. The Bahujan Samaj Party, the AAP and the Congress have alleged tampering of EVMs. The Samajwadi Party has also raised doubts.
The EC had given about a dozen reminders to the government, seeking funds for the paper trail machines. Last year, the CEC had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.
During the last Parliament session, several members alleged that the voting machines used in the recently concluded Assembly elections were tampered with.
Earlier this week, a delegation of representatives from 13 Opposition parties met President Pranab Mukherjee and flagged a range of issues, including that of EVM security.