New Delhi(PTI): The Election Commission has moved a step forward towards procuring nearly 14 lakh new electronic voting machines, with the Finance Ministry giving an 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 an 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In a proposal sent to the Law Ministry, the Commission has said that 9,30,430 EVMs in use currently would become “outdated” between 2015-16 and 2019-20.