The Union Cabinet has cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy new Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The machines are expected to be used in the 2019 General Elections. The Union Cabinet has permitted the Election Commission (EC) to procure 16,15,000 units, at an estimated base price of Rs. 3,173.47 crore. So far, EC has sent at least 11 reminders to the Centre seeking funds for procuring VVPAT machines.
The Centre has chosen Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) to manufacture the VVPAT units. The government has also directed the Price Negotiation Committee to negotiate the final unit price. It is expected that the two PSUs will need at least 30 months to produce over 16 lakh VVPATs.
The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission to come up with a tentative time period by which it can use VVPAT machines across all polling stations of the country. The Supreme Court has directed the EC to conduct 2019 national elections entirely with these upgraded machines. Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes.
Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes.
Election Commission has been accused by sixteen parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the congress for allegedly deploying ‘tampered’ EVMs. They have also petitioned EC to revert back to paper ballot system for greater transparency.
VVPAT machines- Significance
The usage of VVPAT machines of the Election Commission is expected to ensure free and fair elections. In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, the name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter. The voters will be able to view the voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds after which it will get deposited in a sealed box.
VVPAT machines can be regarded as an independent verification system as it (i) allows voters to verify that their votes are cast correctly, (ii) detects possible election fraud or malfunction and (iii) Provides a means to audit the stored electronic results.