For the lack of farsightedness, the Election Commission is now in a conundrum
The Election Commission has chalked out plans to preserve the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that were used in the 11th general elections held on December 30 last year, but has yet to work out how to resolve the problems the machines would pose with regard to their storage.
The Election Commission bought 150,000 EVMs from Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) at the cost of around Tk4,000 crore. Each machine cost about Tk2.10 lakh.
But at the time it was not finalized how these expensive machines would be stored after use.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Election Commission officials said any electronic device needs special attention; otherwise the device may stop working altogether after some time.
They said ensuring proper temperature and humidity is mandatoryin order to preserve any kind of electrical equipment, and as far as the EVMs are concerned, proper environment is a must-have for the machines to keep working in the long run.
Different routes taken to save EVMs
For the lack of farsightedness, the Election Commission is now in a conundrum with the storage of EVMs.
Therefore, the commission formed a committee with Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury as the head, which recommended taking another new project for the preservation of the EVMs.
As per the recommendation, the number of offices in the upazilas and the server stations need to be expanded for storing the EVMs. The EVMs will be kept on the top floor of the server stations. However, the project has not been finalized.
An official of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Branch at the Election Commission, requesting anonymity, said the commission was looking for a viable way to save the machines.
Before taking the new project, 150 EVMs will be preserved in each upazila election office, 1,500 in the district election office, and 500 in the regional election office.
“Initially, we wanted to preserve these in the district treasury, but district officers said there is not enough space to preserve the EVMs,” confirmed Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury.
“We are planning to preserve the machines in each district, and upazila election office’s conference rooms, and server stations by expanding the office. The BMTF also has a storage facility where some of the EVMs can be preserved as well,” he added.
EC to bear the cost
Shahadat further said the Election Commission was conducting a feasibility study on the project.
“The Election Commission will bear all the costs after getting the fund for this project, once approved by the government,” said the election commissioner.
When asked, Kazi Ashikuzzaman, officer in-charge of communication for EVMs at the Election Commission and the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services project, said that the commission had received 44,000 EVMs initially, and preserved them in the basement of the Election Commission Secretariat.
“We had also paid 80% of the total amount for 38,000 more EVMs; however, due to a lack of space, we did not collect them from the BMTF,” he added.
Election Commission Secretary Md Alamgir said he does not know why no initiatives were taken on preservation of the EVMs when they were bought.
The commission wanted 80,000 EVMs from BMTF before the 11th general elections in 2018. But due to shortage of time, BMTF could not manufacture that many EVMs at the time.
The commission used 5,000 EVMs in six constituencies in the 11th parliamentary polls while EVMs were also used in different city corporations, upazilas, and union parishad elections.
In 2010, EVMs were introduced under ATM Shamsul Huda-led Election Commission. They were purchased from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), and were used in city corporation elections. Since those machines were faulty, they were not used after that.