New Delhi: An informal group of ministers has cleared an Election Commission proposal to buy nearly 14 lakh electronic voting machines (EVMs) at a cost of over Rs 5,000 crore, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The GoM, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, is learnt to have sent its recommendation to the Prime Minister's Office, supporting the purchase of EVMs in batches.
"The minutes of the meeting have been sent to the PMO for approval. Once the minutes are approved, the Union Cabinet will take up the proposal to buy new EVMs," a senior government functionary said.
Last year, the Election Commission had approached the government to buy nearly 14 lakh new electronic voting machines.
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 187 crore would be required in 2016-17 for the new EVMs, but final figures will be available when the EC issues tender.
The Election Commission wants to purchase new machines against the backdrop of over 9 lakh machines currently in use nearing the end of their 15-year life.
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 the coming assembly polls, and by the time the next Lok Sabha polls are due, the delivery will be completed.
In a proposal sent to the Law Ministry, the Commission had said that 9,30,430 EVMs in use today would become "outdated" between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
Director General in the Election Commission, Sudeep Jain, who recently appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel, had flagged the issue of the limitations the two PSUs will face in producing EVMs on a short notice. "For 2016-17, we have asked for Rs 1,800 crore. So, every year, we will have to do it because of the production capacity of these companies. If we give them only one year, they will not be able to produce it," he was quoted in the report of the Committee tabled in Parliament yesterday.