Cabinet clears funding of Rs. 3173 crores for VVPAT voting machines
The VVPAT units will bring in an additional layer of transparency to the election process and boost voters' confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), officials said.
Highly placed sources said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting, chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by giving a nod to the independent Election Commission's proposal of procuring more than 1600,000 paper trail machines to cover all polling stations in the country.
The government has repeatedly said it is considering the viability of manufacturing VVPATs as only two government companies make them. The funds would be given to the Commission in two instalments - the first of Rs 1,600 crore in this fiscal and the rest in the next fiscal.
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM which is then deposited in a box. This paper slip contains the name, serial number, and symbol of the chosen candidate.
The voters see voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgment receipt for the party they voted for in the election.
The latest one, sent on March 22, stated that procurement of EVMs with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) can not be delayed any longer given the prevailing environment.
The EC had requested the government for immediate release of funds to procure VVPAT machines after opposition parties raised their pitch for abandoning EVMs for paper ballots.
The Election Commission, Singh tweeted, was "limiting objections to EVMs to hacking".
The EC has asked for Rs 3,174 crore in all so that it can obtain over 16 lakh paper trail machines for all polling stations in the country.
Mr Jaitley said, the total estimated cost would be three thousand one hundred seventy three crore rupees excluding taxes and freight.
August 14, 2013: Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended to facilitate the introduction of VVPAT units. Thereafter, 20,300 VVPAT units were purchased by the EC in 2013.
The issue dominated a marathon Rajya Sabha discussion on electoral reforms late last month but despite repeated demands for an assurance on funds for VVPATs, both Jaitley and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dodged the issue.
A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines created to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
The Supreme Court has directed the poll panel to use VVPAT machines for the next general elections in 2019 and while hearing a contempt petition, sought to know the approximate time within which the entire system could be introduced.
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