EC promises to attach every EVM with VVPAT machine in next Lok Sabha elections, Centre fails to release funds

File photo of EVM Machine. Photograph:( Others )

WION New Delhi Mar 16, 2017, 02.39 PM (IST) Raghvendra Rao

The Election Commission of India will require Rs 3,174 crore from the Central government in addition to a 30-month time frame from the time this money is released to get the 15.5 lakh Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines it now requires to implement its plan of having a VVPAT machine at every polling station in the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

And given the fact that there doesn't seem to be much movement from the Centre's side as far as the release of this money is concerned, having VVPATs in all polling stations by April 2019—when India votes to elect its next Lok Sabha--appears to be a pipe dream for now.

In an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, the Election Commission has recently intimated the apex court that it will get the requisite number of VVPATs manufactured in 30 months time from the time of release of fund by the government. But the fact that this requirement of Rs 3,174 crore was raised as early as 2014 and has still not seen any action on the release of funds has put a big question mark on the ECs ambitious move to have these machines at all polling stations.

The VVPAT machines are back in focus after some political parties raised apprehensions over the credibility of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that were used in the recent elections to the state legislative assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur & Goa. Parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Aam Aadmi Party have alleged tampering of these EVMs during the recent polls.

Attached with the EVM, the VVPAT machine generates a paper slip bearing the name and the symbol of the candidate along with the recording of vote in Control Unit so as to ensure that in case of a dispute, the paper slip can be counted to verify the result being shown on the EVM. Under VVPAT, a printer is attached to the Balloting Unit and kept in the voting compartment. The paper slip generated by the VVPAT remains visible for just 7 seconds through a transparent window.

Presently, the Election Commission has around 53,500 VVPAT units available with it and in the recent elections to five states, it deployed around 52,000 of these units. From the time it first used VVPATs in Nagaland in 2013, the EC has used these machines in 255 Assembly Constituencies and 9 Parliamentary Constituencies across the country so far. In the recenly held Goa elections, VVPAT machines were deployed in all the 40 assembly constituencies.

EC officials say that since 2014, the poll watchdog has been “relentlessly pursuing” with the Central government for sanction and release of the Rs 3,174 crore it needs to procure the 15.5 lakh VVPATs it needs for all parliamentary constituencies in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The design of the VVPAT machines was made by BEL and ECIL and was approved by EC in 2013 and shown to persons who were pursuing matters in the Supreme Court. The rules were also amended for its introduction.