Rs 13.50 Crore Spent by Govt on Electoral Bond Scheme Operations

The Indian government has incurred a cost of Rs 13.50 crore for operating the Electoral Bond Scheme, as per the State Bank of India (SBI), the authorized issuer of Electoral Bonds (EBs). This expenditure includes commission, printing, and other expenses related to the management and operation of the scheme.

A total of Rs 11.60 crore, inclusive of GST, has been charged as commission in connection with the sale of Electoral Bonds across 29 phases. Additionally, the government has been levied Rs 1,90,01,380, including GST, for printing the Electoral Bonds. A further Rs 6,720 has been charged for a “Device to verify Mask-Print Security.”

The scheme, which was introduced in 2018, has raised questions about transparency, as it allows for anonymous tax-free funding to political parties. While donors purchasing these bonds do not have to pay any service charges or printing costs, these expenses are ultimately borne by the government, and thereby, the taxpayers. Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd), a transparency campaigner, highlighted the “irony” of the scheme, noting the significant costs involved in facilitating anonymous political donations at the expense of taxpayers.

Since the inception of the Electoral Bond Scheme in 2018, political parties have garnered a total of Rs 15,946 crore from anonymous donors over 29 phases. The scheme permits only those political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and which have secured at least one percent of the votes polled in the last general election, to receive Electoral Bonds.

The recent state elections saw political parties collect Rs 1,006 crore from anonymous donors, with 94 percent of this amount raised through the sale of Rs 1 crore denomination bonds. This indicates that high net-worth individuals or corporates are likely the primary donors through these bonds.

As per the rules of the Electoral Bond Scheme, the identities of donors and recipient political parties remain confidential. However, there is speculation that corporates are the main contributors to political parties through these bonds. The data on the total amount donated each year varies, with figures such as Rs 1,056.73 crore in 2018, Rs 5,071.99 crore in 2019, and increasing amounts in subsequent years.

Electoral Bonds are anonymous debt instruments valid for 15 days from the date of issue. They can be purchased by donors from the bank and encashed by eligible political parties in their designated bank accounts. The bonds are issued in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore.

This development raises significant questions about the costs and transparency of political funding in India, as well as the burden it places on the public exchequer.



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