The Union Cabinet is likely to take a call tomorrow on procuring paper trail machines for the Election Commission which wants to use them in all polling stations in the next Lok Sabha elections. The item ‘procurement of VVPAT units’ has been listed on the agenda of the Union Cabinet scheduled to meet tomorrow morning. But it is still not clear whether the Cabinet would clear the entire Rs 3,174 crore needed for over 16 lakh paper trail machines to cover all polling stations in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or go for instalments.
For EVMs, the Cabinet has so far cleared two tranches of Rs 1,009 crore and Rs 9,200 for the Commission to buy new voting machines. Since June, 2014, the Commission has given at least 11 reminders to the government seeking funds for VVPAT machines. Last year, Zaidi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi drawing his attention to the funds needed for the machines.
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The Supreme Court has asked the Commission to give a tentative timeframe by which it can use VVPAT machines in all polling stations. The EC says two PSUs — ECIL and BEL — need 30 months to produce the over 16 lakh VVPATs.
The BSP, the AAP and the Congress had attacked the EC for allegedly using “tampered” EVMs. Sixteen parties, not including the AAP, had recently petitioned the EC to revert to paper ballot system for greater transparency.
VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home. The voters see voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgement receipt for the party they voted for in the election.