Cabinet clears funding of Rs. 3173 crores for VVPAT voting machines

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The opposition said the government's decision came after pressure from the opposition and that the matter was not closed with this announcement as the real issue was the trust deficit vis-a-vis the poll process. Since this year's budget has already been finalised, half the amount - approximately Rs 1,600 crore - will be factored into the revised estimate and the remaining included in the 2018-19 budget. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate. Thus, the ballot slip neither goes into the hands of the voter nor others get to see it.

The court was hearing a plea by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Mohammed Tassir, a contesting candidate for the MCD elections who contended that VVPAT machines should be adopted as electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the past had been subjected to manipulation.

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.

The Cabinet has also directed the Price Negotiation Committee to negotiate with M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd and M/s Electronics Corporation of India Ltd to rationalise the final unit price expeditiously.

The EC has sought Rs 3,174 crore in all for procuring over 16 lakh paper trail machines to cover all polling stations in the country. Accordingly, introduction of the VVPAT was facilitated by amending the Conduct of Election Rules in August, 2013.

Since 2013, when the Supreme Court ordered the EC to implement the VVPAT system in a phased manner, the commission has been requesting the fund for a long time now and regarding this they have written a letter to the Law minister on March 22.

VVPATs were used in the 2014 parliamentary elections in select booths. Subsequently, order for 67,000 additional Units was placed in 2015, out of which 33,500 Units have been supplied by the manufacturers. The government had slammed Opposition parties for questioning the credibility of EVMs after the BJP's impressive victories in Uttar Pradesh and recent round of state elections. The use of VVPAT is expected to bring more transparency to the electoral process.

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.

According to sources in the EC, the poll panel would require an additional 16,15,066 VVPATs by 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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