After RECEIVING 38 communications from the Election Commission, the government on Wednesday gave its clearance for allocation of Rs 3,174 crore to the poll panel to buy 16.15 lakh Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for use in the next Lok Sabha polls.
Announcing the Cabinet decision, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said voters have the right to know whether their votes have been correctly registered. He expressed confidence that the machines with VVPAT will be available by September 2018 if the order is placed in April this year.
Jaitley said if all machines come by September 2018, there will be EVMs with VVPATs for all elections thereafter. He said the allocation of the entire sum — Rs 3173.47 crore — will be split through two financial years, and Rs 1,600 crore will be given in the current year through supplementary and revised estimates.
The VVPAT units will bring in an additional layer of transparency to the election process and boost voters’ confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), officials said.
The decision over the long-pending demand comes days after wrangling between members of the treasury and Opposition benches in Parliament over the VVPAT issue. The government had slammed Opposition parties for questioning the credibility of EVMs after the BJP’s impressive victories in Uttar Pradesh and recent round of state elections.
This also comes days after the Election Commission offered a public challenge to critics to find snags in EVMs.
While a group of 16 parties petitioned the poll panel recently to revert to paper ballot system for greater transparency and expressed doubts over the integrity of EVMs, parties such as the BSP and the SP raised doubts over the BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh. The AAP has also tangled with the EC on this issue.
The decision of the Union Cabinet, which was taken today in the absence of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, will enable the poll panel to deploy VVPAT units in all polling booths in 2019 General Election, acting as an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters.
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which can be shown to the voter to dispel doubts. This printout is then deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election.
This would also result in compliance of the directions of the the Supreme Court in 2013 , which had asked the EC to implement the VVPAT system in a phased manner, and the commission had committed to have it in place by the time of the 2019 general elections.
The EC today said VVPATs will be manufactured by two Public Sector Undertakings — Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd — as approved by the EC. The PSUs need 30 months to produce the over 16 lakh VVPATs.