The Election Commission (EC) has estimated that it needs 13.91 lakh new electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2019, as over half the existing EVMs will complete their 15-year lifespan by then. The government, however, is yet to sanction the required funds.
Currently, the EC has 17.12 lakh EVMs, of which 9.31 lakh will be outdated by 2019. Taking into account the additional requirements, the EC has sought funds for 13.91 lakh new EVMs, estimated to cost over Rs 2,000 crore.
“Approximately 22.50 lakh EVMs (ballot units) and 16.50 lakh control units will be required for conducting general elections… and simultaneous elections to various legislative assemblies,” the EC said in its reply to an RTI plea filed by The Indian Express.
According to the RTI reply, the EC sent its first request to the law ministry — its administrative ministry — on June 16 last year. “The life of the EVMs has been estimated at 15 years, and according to this, the commission has to phase out pre-2006 EVMs in a phased manner,” wrote EC Secretary K N Bhar in the letter.
Stating that since the total cost would be over Rs 2,000 crore, the EC suggested that the government may sanction the amount in phases, starting from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
The EC also sought additional funds for VVPATs (Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) — Rs 714 crore each year from 2014-15 to 2017-18 for 3,12,500 VVPATs every year.
As the law ministry failed to respond, then CEC V S Sampath sent another letter on December 1. “Since no budget provision has been made in the first supplementary and considerable time has lapsed, it would not be possible to procure and make payment for purchase,” he wrote.
The law ministry sent its response on February 6 this year, stating that the “same may not be considered since the ECI had informed that it is not possible for them to purchase the EVMs and VVPAT during financial year 2014-15.”
The law ministry suggested that the demand for provision of funds for 2015-16 and 2016-17 may be submitted later.
Regarding the demand for funds during 2017-18 and 2018-19, Jose Thomas, director, law ministry, wrote: “In the fast advancement of technology and the changing scenario, there may be drastic changes in EVMs and also there may be a remote possibility of introducing Aadhar based voting system in general elections 2019. Hence, it may not be advisable to calculate budget provision for the purchase of EVMs etc during the year 2017-18 and 2018-19 at this stage.”
While the EC also demanded separate funds for totalisers (instruments used for counting of votes), the law ministry wrote: “A policy decision is yet to be taken by competent authority in this regard. Besides, this issue is under examination by Law Commission of India as part of electoral reforms proposals being considered. Demand for fund for the same will be examined after a decision is taken in the matter.”
On February 25, then CEC H S Brahma sent another letter to the law ministry stating that funds for new EVMs should be made available during the next four years.
On August 27, EC officials informed at a meeting of officials of the law and finance ministries that “the manufacturers would not be in a position to supply the quantity indicated for the current financial year due to time constraints”. The law ministry then asked the EC to send a “revised proposal”.
On September 22, EC Secretary Sumit Mukherjee sent the revised proposal to the law ministry. Sources said the ministry is yet to send its response.
EVMs are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)-Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL)-Hyderabad.
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