Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suggested that startups be involved in the development and manufacture of paper trail for electronic voting machines, which would open up the critical area of voting technology to the private sector.
According to highly placed sources in the government, Modi told a cabinet meeting recently that Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPAT), which provides for a physical evidence of the votes cast in the EVM, and which has been implemented in a limited manner following a Supreme Court order, can be sourced from start ups.
“With startups in the IT sector doing so well, the Prime Minister feels that they can compete and come up with fresh ideas and new technologies with regard to VVPAT. It would also reduce the cost,” a senior government functionary said.
However, the entire process of procuring VVPAT from startups has to be tamper-proof and there can be no compromise on its security, he said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet has cleared a budget of Rs 920 crore for purchase of EVMs for 2016-17. The decision was taken with regard to the Election Commission’s proposal of buying 13.95 lakh EVMs over the next three years, before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
For the remaining requirement, which has to be met over the next two years, the EC has set up a technical team to explore the possibility of lowering the price. Also, an amount of Rs 25 crore will be allocated to the commission for setting up an R&D unit to develop new and cost-effective voting technologies.
A total budget of Rs 5,200 crore has been earmarked for procurement of new EVMs over the next three years. The EC’s requirement is that of 13.95 lakh ballot units, 9.3 lakh control units and 16.15 lakh VVPATs.
Currently, EVMs are manufactured by two public sector units—Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd.