VVPAT likely to be used in Bengal civic polls


For the first time, the West Bengal election commission is likely to use Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in the forthcoming Kolkata and Howrah Municipal Corporation polls on December 19.

The state government and the state election commission (SEC) has policy-wise decided to use VVPAT but it depends whether the poll body will have an adequate supply of machines before the election.

Sources in the commission said that currently, it has 20,000 machines in their possession but those machines are all of M-2 type that are backdated.

Currently, all the elections are conducted with M-3 type machines that have inbuilt VVPAT facilities. So, if the commission opts for the M-3 type machines then the electors will automatically have this facility.

“In this present situation, the VVPAT is very important where the voters will have the confirmation of transparency of their votes. But there are certain factors that is keeping the commission on their toes. The M-3 machines are manufactured by the Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and the use of these machines in the election depends on whether ECIL will be able to supply such a huge quantity of machines within such a short period,” a senior official of the State Election Commission (SEC) said.

Sources in the commission have already spoken to ECIL and they have primarily agreed to provide the machines before the election.

The commission that had a meeting with the district magistrates and the police chiefs of Howrah and South 24 Parganas and the police commissioner of Kolkata on Friday evening, had already briefed them about the development.

“If this works properly, then we will try to implement it in all the civic polls of the state,” the official added.

There are a total of 4,800 booths in 144 wards of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and 1,213 booths in 50 wards of Howrah Municipal Corporation.

According to sources, the ward-based draft voter list may be released on November 18. After that the commission will issue an election schedule or notification.

“Going by the number of booths in both these municipal corporations, we need around 8,000 to 9,000 machines for the election,” the official added.

The commission on Saturday had a detailed discussion with the state government officials including chief secretary HK Diwedi, Home Secretary BP Gopalika and DG Monoj Malavya where the commission has asked the state government to detailed planning of the security arrangement and the number of polling personnel the state is ready to provide.

“This time because of Corona, the number of booths will be more and so we need more polling personnel. We hope that the state will be providing all the details within a couple of days,” a senior SEC official said.