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Paper trail of votes: Rs 1,700 cr needed to implement SC order

One of the factors that makes the EC’s task an onerous one is the huge cost.

With the Supreme Court asking the Election Commission (EC) to use voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) in electronic voting machines (EVMs) in a phased manner in the coming elections to ensure transparency,the election regulator has begun the exercise to implement the decision.

However,senior Election Commission officials say it would be “very difficult” to “completely” implement the decision in the coming Assembly elections in five states or even next year’s general elections.

One of the factors that makes the EC’s task an onerous one is the huge cost — around Rs 1,700 crore — to make all the 13 lakh-plus EVMs VVPAT-compliant. More importantly,the two PSUs — Bharat Electronics Limited,Bangalore,and Electronics Corporation of India Limited,Hyderabad — that manufacture the EVMs for the EC don’t have the infrastructure to manufacture VVPAT units on such a large scale in less than six months,if elections are held as per schedule during April-May 2014.

The Union Law Ministry,which is the administrative ministry for the EC,amended the Conduct of Election Rules,1961,on August 14 to facilitate introduction of the VVPAT system on a large scale.

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As per the amended rules,a VVPAT or a printer unit would be attached to the EVM and,after casting the vote,the voter would be able to “view through the transparent window” of the printer the printed paper slip showing the “serial number,name and the symbol of the candidate for whom he has cast his vote”.

Under the amended Rule 49MA,a detailed procedure has been provided to deal with complaints about particulars provided on paper slips.

In order to facilitate a paper trail for each vote polled,a VVPAT unit is attached to every EVM. Whenever a vote is cast,the voter is able to verify by looking at the paper receipt if his vote has been correctly registered for the candidate he voted for. However,voters won’t get a receipt as proof of their having voted and whom they voted for.

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“Voting is a secret process and the entire purpose would be defeated if voters start getting receipts indicating the candidate they voted for. However,immediately after the vote has been cast,the voters can see the receipt on the paper inside the VVPAT unit,” said a senior EC functionary.

For the time being,the EC has decided to place an order for 20,000 VVPAT units and has asked for Rs 38 crore from the Law Ministry for the same. Sources said the ministry has referred the matter to the Finance Ministry for release of funds.

At an all-party meeting held on October 4,2010,leaders cutting across party lines had asked the EC to “explore” the possibility of VVPAT.

First published on: 15-10-2013 at 12:20:19 am
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