The union cabinet has approved the procurement of 16,15,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units, costing around Rs3,173.47 crore, for use in the General Elections, 2019 (See: Cabinet clears purchase of paper-trail VVPAT voting machines).
The union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its approval for the purchase of 16,15,000 VVPAT units at a tentative unit cost of Rs19,650 each (excluding taxes) during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years.
Bharat Electronics Ltd (Bangalore) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (Hyderabad), will manufacture and supply these machines and the price negotiation committee has been asked to negotiate rationalisation of the final unit price expeditiously.
The cabinet also approved allocation of Rs1,600 crore in the current financial year in the supplementaries / revised estimates for meeting the cash outgo envisaged for purchase of EVMs (control units and ballot units) and VVPAT units during the year 2017-18.
The government will make advance payment of 40 per cent of the total cost to the manufacturers and a provision of balance amount as may be required will be made in the budget estimates for 2018-19.
The Election Commission will place orders on the two manufacturers depending on their production capacity so that all the VVPAT units can be procured by September 2018.
VVPATs will be manufactured as per the design approved by the commission based on recommendation of the technical experts committee on EVMs, comprising professors from IITs.
VVPAT units release a paper record of the vote cast by the voter, which is visible for seven seconds after the EVM button is pressed. The paper slip then gets cut and falls into a drop box. These paper slips are retained and preserved by EC for 45 days after the results, and produced on directions of the court hearing an election petition.
Election Commission plans to deploy VVPAT units in all pooling booths in the General Elections, 2019, which will act as an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters, allaying any apprehension in the minds of the voters as to the fidelity and integrity of the EVMs.
This would also result in compliance of the directions of the Supreme Court vide its order dated 8 October 2013.
The decision comes at a time when many opposition parties, including BSP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, have cast doubts on EVMs being tamper-proof.
AAP chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has even alleged that the polls in Punjab, UP and Uttarakhand were rigged by tampering the EVMs, and demanded that only VVPATs be used in future polls.
Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, finance minister Arun Jaitley said VVPATs would bring more transparency in the voting process. "Voters have a right to know if their votes are correctly registered or not," he said.
EC, which has been relentlessly pursuing the matter with the government since 2014, said it would closely monitor the production of VVPATs for timely delivery well before the 2019 general elections.