As part of its plan to complete providing smart NID cards to all voters by December next year, the Election Commission will go for a massive scale-distribution in 32 districts in the first week of next month.
The EC, which is already distributing the NIDs in some city corporation areas, would also hand over laminated cards to new voters for a temporary period as the identification has become essential for any sort of documentation.
The commission has also taken an initiative to purchase 2,000 sets of finger print machines and 2,000 more Image Recognition Intelligence Software (IRIS) scanners. Once those machines are received, the cards would be distributed across the country in a smoother way.
“We are working and taking support from the armed forces division for the smooth personalisation of the NID cards,” Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury told The Daily Star yesterday.
“For the distribution, we have already procured 517 sets of IRIS scanners and the same number of fingerprint machines.”
He also said, “Our target is to complete the personalisation and distribution of 90 million smart NID cards by December 2018. We are also working to produce and distribute provisional NIDs [laminated] for the 1.2 crore new voters by early 2018.”
These decisions were made at the IDEA project steering committee meeting yesterday at Nirbachan Bhaban with Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda in the chair.
The EC decided to take up the state-funded project to distribute smart NID cards among voters following a failed attempt to get the work done through a joint finance with the World Bank.
The commission started the distribution in October last year, long after French company Oberthur Technologies (OT) won the tender bid in January 2015 for production, personalisation, and supply of the 90 million cards up to upazila level.
The EC scrapped the deal with OT for its failure to complete the production and supply of all cards on time after extending deadline twice.
The commission has been able to distribute only 2.86 percent of the total smart NID cards. Under the around Tk 800 crore project, some 90 million voters were supposed to receive the cards by June.
Now, the commission has decided to do the job on its own under a new work plan as the World Bank will not fund the new project after unsuccessful conclusion of the previous project, said EC officials.
The EC officials said they have hired some armed forces personnel to personalise the blank cards that they had received from OT.
Contacted, Brig Gen Mohammed Saidul Islam, project director of IDEA, told The Daily Star that OT used to personalise five to six lakh cards every month but now that number has reached 40-45 lakh.
“The IDEA project had stagnated but gone are those days. We are hopeful that we will be able to deliver all the cards within the stipulated timeframe,” he said adding that the work was going on in full swing with the Bangladeshi resources.
The meeting has discussed the extension of the project as WB funding has stopped. A project proposal with one year extension was also sought to complete the task.
Saidul said some 13 percent of the targeted NID cards have been distributed so far.
Within this June, OT could produce 77.30 million blank cards and only 12.41 million cards were personalised. It supplied 10.98 million cards to Thana and upazila election offices.
Although the target was set at distributing 90 million cards, around 1.20 crore new voters have already been included in the voter list and the number now would be 101.68 million, according to EC’s latest estimates.
The EC worked out the plan to provide the smart cards to voters under the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) project in 2011.