The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy new Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines on Wednesday. Ahead of the 2019 General Elections, the EC has been given the go ahead to procure 16,15,000 units, at an estimated base price of Rs. 3,173.47 crore. Since June 2014, the EC has reportedly given at least 11 reminders to the Centre seeking funds for VVPAT machines.
“Amount of Rs. 3173 crores have been approved to acquire 16.15 lakh VVPAT machines,” confirmed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, reported news agency ANI.
A VVPAT machine dispenses a slip — called a ‘Ballot Slip’ — with the serial number, name and symbol of the chosen candidate which a person has voted for. The voters see the voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds after which it drops into a sealed box, which would be proof of the party he or she has voted for.
The Centre has additionally picked Bengaluru-based M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd and M/s Electronics Corporation of India Ltd from Hyderabad to manufacture the units. It has directed the Price Negotiation Committee to negotiate the final unit price.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the EC to give a tentative period of time by which it can use VVPAT machines in all polling stations. The EC had come under attack by parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress for allegedly deploying ‘tampered’ EVMs.