Letters for 2 years, SOS to PM, Election Commission still awaits EVM papertrail funds

VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which can be shown to the voter to dispel any doubts.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Published:March 19, 2017 5:41 am
Election Commission, EC, VVPAT machines, voter trails machines, VVPAT funds, india news, voting machines, narendra modi, modi Photo for representational purpose. Partha Paul

IN A letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago, the Election Commission sought urgent release of funds to procure enough Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines to cover all polling stations ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The EC has sent over 10 reminders to the government on the matter, since June 2014, and the letter to Modi by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, on October 25, 2016, was an SOS of sorts. The CEC very rarely writes directly to the PM, with its communication to the government on electoral matters normally limited to Law and Home ministries.

Several parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party, have raised doubts about tampering of EVMs following the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand results. Before the 2014 general elections, the BJP had talked of EVM tampering on many occasions.

VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which can be shown to the voter to dispel any doubts. This printout is then deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election. In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered 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 has been writing to the Law Ministry (its parent ministry) for funds to purchase approximately 16 lakh VVPATs, for which it needs Rs 3,100 crore.

In his letter to Modi, Zaidi wrote, “I’m writing to draw your kind attention to the crisis that may occur during the next General Election to Lok Sabha in 2019, if required numbers of replacement Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and new Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are not produced in time by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), the two defence PSUs.”

He further wrote, “I would like to bring to your notice that Commission submitted its first proposal to the government of India in Ministry of Law & Justice on 16th June, 2014 for the required budget and sanction for EVMs and VVPATs and has pursued the matter continuously since then.

“There are already two contempt petitions against me and the Commission being heard by Hon’ble Supreme Court for not deploying VVPATs in adequate number. The production of VVPAT is held up for want of sanction of funds. Hence I would request your good self to kindly look into the matter and advise concerned ministries for release of necessary funds & sanctions for VVPAT most urgently.”

The Sunday Express has learnt that on July 20, 2016, the Union Cabinet had at a meeting considered the procurement of VVPATs, but it was decided that the EC should be asked to explore the feasibility of roping in private manufacturers as BEL and ECIL have limited capacity.

The EC later turned down the suggestion citing “sensitivity of the job”. In December 2016, the poll panel recommended two other PSUs, namely Indian Telecom Industry in Bangalore and Central Electronics limited in Ghaziabad, to enhance production capacity.

On January 10, 2017, Zaidi wrote to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, warning that if orders for VVPATs were not placed by February, manufacturers would not be able to supply the machines by September 2018.

During a recent hearing on the contempt petition against the CEC on the matter, the EC told the Supreme Court that it needed 30 months to procure close to 16 lakh paper trail machines. This means that unless it ropes in more manufacturers, the poll panel would miss the 2019 deadline to equip all polling stations with VVPATs.

Following the results in Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief Mayawati, who was decimated in the elections, sought a repoll with paper ballots. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal later blamed his party’s loss in Punjab on EVM tampering and asked the EC to tally his party’s EVM votes with the VVPATs installed across 30 seats. The Congress’s losing Uttarakhand CM, Harish Rawat, too has attributed the BJP’s victory to “EVM chamatkar (EVM magic)”.

While the EC has rejected all such allegations and reaffirmed its faith in EVMs, in an interview to NDTV news channel on Friday, Zaidi acknowledged that VVPATs would be a “game changer”, which would “double and treble the voter’s confidence in EVMs”.

The poll panel needs 16,15,066 VVPATs by 2019, when the Lok Sabha elections would be held simultaneously with state elections in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana. One machine costs Rs 19,650. The poll panel already has about 20,000 units and has placed order for another 67,000 VVPATs, of which half have been delivered.

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  1. J
    Jim
    Mar 19, 2017 at 7:59 am
    Another empty f a r t by milaards. Who is going foot the bill of this needless extravaganza?
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    1. S
      S Kuamar
      Mar 19, 2017 at 10:38 am
      The party in power, will not release now as it would be trouble for them if VVPAT come, they can not do any EVM magic. It knows very well that it has won the elections recently by polarization of votes, not majority supporting them. So, for 2019 elections, VVPAT would be a trouble for them.
      Reply
      1. B
        Bimmi Singh
        Mar 19, 2017 at 5:47 am
        But you follow IE vividly. Please go and watch aaj tak zee DD etc
        Reply
        1. B
          Bimmi Singh
          Mar 19, 2017 at 4:38 am
          Intentional delay
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          1. A
            Aditya
            Mar 19, 2017 at 2:36 am
            Giving winds to conspiracy theories..
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            1. V
              vishal
              Mar 19, 2017 at 5:13 am
              VVPAT would be the best solution .lt;br/gt;But it should provided 2 paper printouts. 1 which is deposited in a box and another which the voter can keep with himself .lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Also , we must look into innovative solutions for the future , which will allow voters to vote from home .If people can access their bank accounts and pay taxes online . They should be able to vote also using their mobiles and aadhar card/Voter-ID information.
              Reply
              1. V
                vishal
                Mar 19, 2017 at 5:03 am
                did you even read the article ? where is the conspiracy theory ?lt;br/gt;IE is only reporting the WORDS of the Chief Election Commissioner , who is facing contempt peions in court because CEC has not implemented VVPAT as promised .lt;br/gt;mere reporting of facts does not become conspiracy theory .
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                1. A
                  anique
                  Mar 19, 2017 at 10:47 am
                  Full form of BJP is....... Bhrasht Janta Party.....
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                  1. I
                    Ivan
                    Mar 19, 2017 at 4:14 am
                    Any machine running on software can be hacked. Ask the Iranians about Stuxnet. The scale of the movement of voters in certain UP consuencies with large numbers of Muslims gives room for doubt. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It does not matter who votes for whom, what matters is who does the counting - JV Stalin.
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                    1. K
                      karun
                      Mar 19, 2017 at 7:16 am
                      Even if we use VVPAT machines, opposition can argue that EVMs are tampered after polling is over. This is nothing but, fancy imaginational statement for their supporter after they getting lost in election. Kejriwal thinks that he is master and people will vote just because he rants everyday.
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                      1. M
                        Mangal Laguri
                        Mar 19, 2017 at 4:06 pm
                        If so much doubts - right or wrong - are raised, EC must do something to dispel the suion. Failing to do so will undermine faith in the electoral process in particular and democracy in general.
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                        1. M
                          Mahender Goriganti
                          Mar 19, 2017 at 3:03 am
                          Can anybody or did any one ever scientifically convincingly proved to have been able to hack and manite EVMs after verification and sealed by any means?? If not, all this noise is nothing but nonsense spewed out by Media, like Islamic express and Jihadist claims.
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                          1. M
                            Mahender Goriganti
                            Mar 19, 2017 at 2:32 am
                            The real and biggest problem lies in voter registration and identification than anything after irrespective of any kind of election process EVMs including paper (much worse).lt;br/gt;.3 reasons.1. it is useless unless it goes with personal identification defeating the w purpose of privacy. 2. If VVPaT prints out what voter did, (right or wrong button) but changes his mind later and claims to have voted different (remorse buyer), how do u deal with that?? 3. it does not guaranty any manition, before or later. If it could be deleted and replaced as suggested so where do we go form here?? if it can done then it could be done later too.lt;br/gt;In fact Indian EVMs are best as they are not externally connected nor could be hacked into, nobody has been able to demonstrate the same by any known means to date.
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                            1. T
                              Thinker
                              Mar 19, 2017 at 12:59 am
                              Paper trail EVMs would be a violation of the voters' right to privacy.
                              Reply
                              1. G
                                Girish Rao
                                Mar 19, 2017 at 3:41 am
                                This happened due to subramanian case only
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  r
                                  Mar 20, 2017 at 6:23 am
                                  Exactly! BAN EVM and get back to paper ballot!! Agree?!
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    Saurabh
                                    Mar 30, 2017 at 6:42 am
                                    Would at least the ECI (Elec. Commission) have better retorts to the politicians if VVPAT is installed? Today they are just expecting the people to accept what ECI is saying at face value. Tomorrow at least some proof could be there. and politicians could be better countered. Isn't it? lt;br/gt;Secondly, everything that EC does probably can't be to satisfy politicians. Right? They also have responsibility towards the electors. I'm not questioning EVMs just because some parties are questioning, I'm questioning because of my own doubts. Is ECI not liable to the voters? If yes, why do you care as to what parties would say? Also, would you not want the NDA Govt. to launch Swachh Bharat as the opposition would say it's not effective OR black money drive due to same reasons?
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                                      P.C.Kulkarmi
                                      Mar 19, 2017 at 3:54 am
                                      Most unreasonable argument
                                      Reply
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                                        Fairoz
                                        Mar 19, 2017 at 10:43 am
                                        VVPAT is again giving a paper receipt, why not use paper ballot directly after all if we are again trying to use paper through a complex procedure.
                                        Reply
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                                          Anuj Aggarwal
                                          Mar 19, 2017 at 6:09 am
                                          They are delaying it deliberately to tamper elections.lt;br/gt;What can u expect from a govt and party lead by TRUE anti nationals who were accused in various henious crimes
                                          Reply
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                                            Vineet
                                            Mar 19, 2017 at 8:05 am
                                            Govt has 3000 crores to install statues but doesn't have same for VVPAT which is a crucial democratic intervention. What can one deduce from this? They tell even farmers to sell their vegetables and accept payTM money but accepts political donations in cash. I think the citizens should urge Supreme court to divert statue funds to VVPAT. Statue can wait but democracy can't. How do we make the Govt realise this?
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