Fin min approves buying 14 lakh new EVMs

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The Election Commission has moved a step forward towards procuring nearly 14 lakh new electronic voting machines, with the Finance Ministry giving in-principle approval for buying the new devices which are required ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In its January 18 meeting, the Expenditure Finance Committee headed by Secretary Expenditure in the Finance Ministry, gave in-principle approval for the purchase of 13,95,648 new balloting units and 9,30,432 control units at an estimated cost of Rs 5,511.48 crore between financial years 2015-16 and 2018-19.
Sources in the government said an estimated Rs 1,872 crore would be required in 2016-17 for the new EVMs, but final figures will be available when the EC issues tender.
Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had recently urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to help expedite the approval process to buy new electronic voting machines so the Election Commission has sufficient machines by 2019, when the next Lok Sabha elections are due.
The Election Commission wants to purchase new machines against the backdrop of over nine lakh such machines in use nearing end of their 15-year life.
A senior government functionary explained that the two government undertakings — Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bengaluru and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad will not be in a position to produce new EVMs in one go and would provide it to the Commission in batches.
The machines EC gets in batches can be used in coming assembly polls and by the time the next Lok Sabha polls are due the delivery will be completed.
The EC had once again flagged the issue of new EVMs at a meeting between Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and top Law Ministry officials on January 5.
“The purchase has to be made in batches over a period of time as the manufacturing firms have limitation to the production capacity…CEC also wrote to Law Minister,” a statement issued by EC had said on January 7.
The Law Ministry has already given its “in principle” approval to buy the new EVMs. The Legislative Department of the Law Ministry is the nodal unit for EC.
Now the Law Ministry would move a proposal before the Union Cabinet for the purchase of new EVMs following which the tender process will commence.
In a proposal sent to the Law Ministry, the Commission has said that 9,30,430 EVMs in use today would become “outdated” between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
An EVM consists of a control unit and a balloting unit
connected by a five-meter cable.
The control unit is with the presiding officer and the balloting unit is placed inside the voting compartment to allow voters cast their vote by pressing the blue button against the candidate of their choice.
In 1989-90 one control unit, one balloting unit and one alkaline battery used to cost Rs 5,500. Today the cost is pegged at Rs 20,000 (approximate), an EC official said.
The EVMs were first used in an assembly bypoll in May, 1982 but the absence of a specific law prescribing its use led to the Supreme Court striking it down.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended by Parliament in 1989 to provide for the use of EVMs. But a general consensus on introducing it could be reached only in 1998.
Since then, the EVMs are in use — initially in assembly polls and then in Lok Sabha elections.
EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a balloting unit. If the total number of candidates exceeds 16, a second balloting unit can be linked parallel to the first balloting unit. Similarly, if the total number of candidates exceeds 32, a third balloting unit can be attached and if the total number of candidates exceeds 48, a fourth one can be attached to cater to a maximum of 64 candidates.
In case the number of contesting candidates goes beyond 64 in any constituency, EVMs cannot be used and the conventional method of voting by means of ballot box and ballot paper will have to be adopted, the EC website says.

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