Amid speculation that the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party could advance the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Election Commission (EC) is learnt to be struggling to procure voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) that are to be introduced in all polling stations for the polls next year, The Indian Express has reported. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on April 24, 2017, the poll panel had stated that it would introduce VVPATs in all polling stations for general elections due next year.
To fulfill this promise, the EC needs to procure 16 lakh VVPATs. The EC had said that it would procure the paper trail machines from two manufacturing public sector units (PSUs) Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) located in Bengaluru and Hyderabad resepctively by September 2018, the IE report says.
However, by June 19, EC had received just 3.48 lakh units out of 16.15 lakh VVPATs from BEL and ECIL which is just 22 per cent of the order. This will impact the move, if any, to advance the Lok Sabha polls. With the move of introducing VVPATs in every booth, the poll body wants to quash the suspicion raised over the authenticity of EVMs by opposition parties.
A VVPAT is there to show voters and verify that their votes have been polled for the candidate they have voted for. A printout of the vote cast using an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) comes out of VVPAT. This piece of paper can be shown to the voter to dispel doubts. Subsequently, this printout is deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the poll results, the IE report says.
In order to introduce VVPATs in every polling station in the 2019 elections, the poll body needs to deploy 16.35 lakh Control Units (CUs), 22.37 lakh Ballot Units (BUs) and 16.35 lakh VVPATs. The EC had ordered 13.95 lakh BUs, 9.3 lakh CUs and 16.15 lakh VVPATs from BEL and ECIL last year. The quantities were divided equally between the two PSUs, which had promised to wrap up delivery by September 2018.
Until June 19 this year, the EC had received 42 per cent (5.8 lakh units) of the BUs, 43 per cent (4 lakh units) of the CUs and 22 per cent (3.48 lakh) of the VVPAT units.
The Indian Express has learnt that since June 19, the total number of BUs and CUs received by the poll panel has increased but there hasn’t been any significant improvement in VVPAT numbers.