THE ELECTION Commission (EC) on Wednesday admitted that the delivery of 16 lakh voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines has been delayed, but reiterated its commitment to procure everything in time for the Lok Sabha elections next year.
Responding to a report in The Indian Express based on an RTI application, the Commission issued a statement, saying, “While all required EVMs will be delivered by 30th September 2018, VVPAT deliveries are delayed as the Technical Experts Committee on EVMs appointed by the Commission analyses the technology stabilisation issues in the initial batches and incorporates essential design improvements.”
The EC is now expecting deliveries of all paper trail machines before November, which is almost two months after the deadline the Commission had set for itself.
A VVPAT produces a printout of the vote cast using an Electronic Voting Machine (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 poll results.
The Indian Express had on Wednesday reported that the EC was struggling to meet the September 2018 deadline it committed to the Supreme Court for procuring 16 lakh VVPAT machines for the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
The EC’s insistence on the September 2018 deadline is based on the ground that the new EVMs and VVPATs are of a new make called M3 which has features different from the existing models and, hence, the entire election staff will have to be adequately trained on their usage. Moreover, the first-level check on all these machines, to determine their proper functioning, will need a lead time of about six months.
As on June 19 this year, almost 14 months after the EC placed orders for 16.15 lakh VVPATs with BEL and ECIL, the poll panel had received 3.48 lakh units — in other words, meeting only 22 per cent of the target three months before the deadline.
According to the Commission’s statement released on Wednesday, this figure has now gone up 5.88 lakh VVPATs, which is 36 per cent of the total quantity to be supplied. Out of the 5.88 lakh units, 4.36 lakh have been manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited in Bangalore and the remaining by Electronics Corporation of India in Hyderabad.
The EC said it was consistently reviewing the status of production and supply of VVPATs with the CMDs of PSUs, as well as the technical experts committee, and its officials were monitoring the manufacture and supply of machines on a daily basis to ensure timely delivery.
The Commission reiterated its commitment towards 100 per cent deployment of VVPATs at all polling stations in future. “In this regard, the Commission would like to allay any unfounded apprehensions regarding the supply of VVPATs for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The Commission is committed to the 100% deployment of VVPATs at all polling stations in future General, as well as Bye elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies,” the statement said.
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