The Election Commission (EC) has now decided to send a letter to the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday (21 March) requesting to release Tk 1,260 crore for the purpose of repairing of faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
A member of the EC on Monday said that unless the money is not paid, voting in upcoming National Parliamentary elections will be held through ballot papers.
"The commission at one of its meetings held on last March 15 has taken the decision to send the request letter to the Ministry of Finance. We need around Tk 1,260 crore for repairing of 1.10 lakh faulty EVMs,” Election Commissioner Md Anisur Rahman told reporters at his office on Monday.
The letter will be sent to the ministry on Tuesday (Today), he said. The election commissioner said that EVM manufacturer Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) asked for Tk1,260 crore to repair 1.10 lakh machines.
Mentioning that the EC has not received any assurance regarding the fund, EC Anisur said, "The decision on EVM use in the upcoming general election depends on the release of the fund."
Replying to a query regarding how long the commission would have to wait for the decision, he said, "We cannot wait for an indefinite period of time. If we get the money, the BMTF said they would take six months to repair the machines. So, we think it is high time to take the decision soon."
The election commissioner went on to say that if the EC receives a response to the letter within the next 2-3 weeks, it will get six months' time.
"Otherwise, it will not be possible (to use EVMs in the upcoming general elections)," he added.
He also said that if the government does not allocate the fund, then the EC will be forced to decide and take action accordingly.
The Election Commission bought 1.5 lakh EVMs in phases since 2018 at Tk2.35 lakh each, almost 11 times more than the cost of the same machines in India.
Now, around five years later, 40,000 of those machines are beyond repair while the rest 1.1 lakh can be fixed but that requires around Tk1,260 crore.
The then KM Nurul Huda Commission had bought two lakh EVM machines before the 11th national elections in 2018. At that time they used EVMs in six constituencies in the national elections. The rest were used for local elections including by-elections to various constituencies. Some machines are stored in the BMTF warehouse. A total of one lakh machines became unusable.
Kazi Habibul Awal, after taking charge in February last year, discussed with various stakeholders and took up the plan to use EVMs in 150 seats. About four lakh machines are required for this. The Election Commission made a new proposal of Tk8,711 crore to the government for the purchase and maintenance of another two lakh (EVM) machines. But the Planning Commission decided to shelve the project proposal citing the global financial crisis.