The Election Commission's plan to go for paper trail machines in the next Lok Sabha polls to add an additional layer of transparency in voting is set to materialise as the government today cleared Rs 3,174 crore for the purpose. A total of 16,15,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines would be purchased to cover all polling stations. Several parties have been pressing for the use of these machines to dispel doubts that the EVMs are not tampered with. Sixteen parties had recently petitioned the EC to revert to paper ballot system for greater transparency. The BSP, the AAP and the Congress had attacked the EC on the issue of alleged tampering of EVMs. The paper trail machines leave a paper trail which helps an elector confirm whether the EVM has faithfully registered the vote has has cast to a particular candidate. The funds would be given to the Commission in two instalments -- the first of Rs 1,600 crore in this fiscal and the rest in the next fiscal. The clearance was given by the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a brief discussion. The decision was taken in the absence of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad though the issue relates to his ministry. In a statement, the poll watchdog said it will "closely monitor" the production of VVPATs for timely delivery well before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. "With this, the Commission will ensure the total compliance of the orders of the Supreme Court (on use of VVPATs) and its commitment to use VVPATs with every EVM at all polling stations in the country in General Elections 2019," it said. Between September, 2013 and March this year, the Commission has written 38 times to the government on the procurement of VVPATs, according to an affidavit filed by the poll panel in the Supreme Court on the issue. These correspondence include a letter to the Prime Minister by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi last October and several letters to the law minister. The Supreme Court has asked the Commission to give a tentative timeframe by which it can use VVPAT machines in all polling stations. The EC says two PSUs -- ECIL and BEL -- need 30 months to produce the over 16 lakh VVPATs. The VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for.
The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home. The voters see voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgement receipt for the party they voted for in the election. According to an official statement, 16,15,000 VVPAT units -- at a tentative cost of Rs 19,650 per machine -- will come for Rs 3173.47 crore (excluding taxes and freight as applicable). The idea of an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters in the form of VVPAT was suggested by the political parties in October, 2010. Accordingly, introduction of the VVPAT was facilitated by amending the Conduct of Election Rules in August, 2013. Thereafter, 20,300 VVPAT units were purchased by the EC in 2013. Since then, these units are being deployed in elections in select assembly and parliamentary constituencies. Subsequently, order for 67,000 additional units was placed in 2015, out of which 33,500 have been supplied. The Cabinet has so far cleared two tranches of Rs 1,009 crore and Rs 9,200 respectively for the Commission to buy new electronic voting machines.
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