Controversies aside, EC sticks to EVMs, to buy 16 lakh VVPATs in 6 months

Controversies aside, EC sticks to EVMs, to buy 16 lakh VVPATs in 6 months

Bengluru: Controversies surrounding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections notwithstanding, Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad, have just six more months to deliver more than 16 lakh Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems which will be employed during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Just on Saturday, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda joined the opposition bandwagon vehemently arguing against the use of EVMs, led by the Congress which also passed a resolution against EVMs in its Plenary Session.
However, the Election Commission (EC) has been consistently arguing in favour of EVMs and VVPATs with Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat dismissing all doubts being raised by political parties and EVMs have been in use in various assembly elections along with VVPATs. Various courts have also dismissed petitions filed against the use of EVMs.
As part of its preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the EC, which claims to have sufficient number of EVMs, has placed a massive order for VVPATs from BEL and ECIL and set a September deadline for delivery of 16.15 lakh such systems.
The value of the order is Rs 2,616 crore, which means that each of the VVPAT systems would cost Rs 16,200 excluding tax. “The order was placed in 2017 and the manufacturers will be allowed to add transportation cost to it,” one source said.
BEL, while stating that manufacturing of the systems has already begun, did not want to specify how many are being made in BEL and how many will come from ECIL. “Only the EC can comment on EVMs, we can only confirm that the orders are there, but cannot comment on any details,” a senior official said.
According to the EC, there are two models of EVMs with it already- M2 and M3- and the VVPATs will be specifically designed to be compatible with these two models. “A VVPAT can be fixed with any EVM machined from the same family or model. Since there are two models, we will need two versions of the VVPATs,” one source said.
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The EC already has about 1.8 lakh VVPATs with it, which have been used in various elections, including two by-elections held in Karnataka last year. Once the 16 lakh odd machines are delivered, the EC says it will be all set for the Lok Sabha elections.