A total cost of Rs 1.85 crore has been incurred in printing electoral bonds since the inception of the scheme in 2018, while an analysis of the details related to the bonds printed and sold shows a substantial wastage of money because of a large number of the lower denomination bonds remaining unsold.
Transparency activist Commodore Lokesh K. Batra (Retd), who analysed responses of the State Bank of India and the Centre to his queries made under the Right to Information law, found that the total number of bonds printed in 2018 and 2019 is 6,64,250. The printing cost per electoral bond is Rs 28, hence the total cost of printing bonds works out to Rs 1,85,99,000, or more than Rs 1.85 crore.
The figures were arrived at after analysing the number of bonds printed at the ISP Nasik from February 2018 to March 2019.
A total of 2,65,000 bonds each of Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 value were printed in 2018. In 2019, no bonds of these two values were printed, reflecting the lack of demand for the two lowest denomination bonds. On the other hand, while 4,650 bonds of Rs 1 crore value were printed in 2018, 10,000 such bonds were printed in 2019, the number more than doubling. The number of Rs 1 lakh value bonds printed was 53,000 in 2018 and 40,000 in 2019. While 16,600 bonds of Rs 10 lakh value were printed in 2018, the number went down to 10,000 in 2019.
A comparison of the bonds sold versus the printing figures shows that a substantial number of the lower denomination bonds remained unsold.
While 2,65,000 bonds each of Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 denomination were printed in 2018-19, according to a response provided by the State Bank of India to a query made by Batra shows that only 47 bonds of Rs 1,000 value and just 70 bonds of Rs 10,000 value were sold up to April eight, 2020.
On the other hand, while 14,650 bonds of Rs 1 crore were printed, 12,452 bonds of the highest denomination were sold, reflecting a higher interest in purchase of higher denomination bonds.
While 93,000 bonds of Rs 1 lakh denomination were printed, 1,722 bonds of this value were sold.
A total of 26,600 bonds of Rs 10 lakh denomination were printed, and 4,911 bonds of this value were sold. The figures show that higher denomination bonds sold much more than the lower denomination bonds.
“The cost of printing electoral bonds is borne by the government. In other words, it is the tax payers’ money which is spent on it,” said Batra.
The RTI activist referred to a letter written by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to then finance minister Arun Jaitley in August 2017, welcoming the electoral bonds scheme and urging to print bonds of small values. He said, this has, however, resulted in a huge wastage of bonds, hence tax payers’ money.
“To enable and encourage people of all strata to participate in the process, while protecting their identities from being disclosed, if that is their preference, the Bonds should also be available in denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 in addition to higher denominations,” the letter had said.