The Election Commission is planning to replace most of their current set of electronic voting machines that are now 15 years old, after some defects were spotted during the recent Lok Sabha elections in Guwahati and Pune, reports The Economic Times.
The Commission used 16 lakh machines in the recent election, out of which 9 lakh EVMs will be destroyed over a period of five-years as part of this plan. The first batch of devices that will be destroyed will be the 1-1.5 lakh EVMs that were purchased in 200-01 period at a rate of Rs 10,000 per EVM.
Hyderabad-based state-run Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), one of the manufacturers of the machine found out that the machines from this batch were acting up because of a defective part. EC has however, decided to not take any risk and replace all EVMs that may have this defect. The proposal of scrapping and then purchasing new EVMs will cost around Rs 1,000 crore and it has been sent to the government for approval according to the report.
How much would the new machines cost? It is worth noting that ECIL has supplied 248,600 EVMs from 2006-11 to the Election Commission at a rate of Rs 8,670. The company had delivered EVMs for the same price to the EC in 2003-04 time period as well. It looks like all these machines may be replaced in this new plan. If the new machines are being purchased at the same cost, the cost 9 lakh EVMs could come up to Rs 780.30 crore. It’s not clear by what rate the price of EVMs would have reduced in all these years.
Next-gen EVMs? ECIL had mentioned in its 2011 annual report that it was working on a new generation of EVMs that would utilise PKI technology, a form of cryptography for communicating key information in an unsecured network. This could mean that the company could be working on connected EVMs, but this again raises the risk of man in the middle attacks, especially since PKI technology has flaws. In another report it had mentioned that the company was working on EVMs with biometric capabilities. ECIL has not mentioned it since, giving the impression that the idea has been dropped.
What about exported EVMs? ECIL had also supplied EVMs to Russia, Nepal and Bangladesh in the last five years. The company has not stated if these EVMs could also have these flaws or if it plans to replace these machines too.