Approximately 10,000 electoral bonds worth Rs 1 crore each were printed by the Union government between August 1 and October 29, according to two responses to a Right to Information request from the State Bank of India (SBI).
In the run-up to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections, the most recent tranche of electoral bonds went on sale from October 1 to October 10.
SBI responded to RTI activist Kanhaiya Kumar’s October 29 request for information about the last time the government printed electoral bonds. The bonds were worth Rs 11,400 crore in various denominations and were printed at the India Security Press in Nashik.
According to the same reply, SBI, the only bank authorized by the government to sell electoral bonds, printed 10,000 bonds worth Rs 1 crore during the calendar year 2022. Following Kumar’s earlier RTI request, SBI provided details of printing electoral bonds in 2018 and 2019 as the only instances.
In response to a question regarding whether the costs associated with the printing of the electoral bonds are borne by the exchequer or by the bond purchaser, SBI stated in its October 29 reply that “The stationary is acquired from the Government of India by SBI for sale at its authorized branches.”
A Brief Explanation
In the past few years, poll bonds of Rs 1 crore, the highest denomination available in the scheme, have proven to be the most popular choice for corporations and individuals. There are also bonds with denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, and Rs 10 lakh available under the scheme. Few people, however, are interested in these proposals. The government has printed 24,650 Rs 1 crore-denomination bonds, of which 10,108 have been sold.
The electoral bonds with a denomination of Rs 1 crore, which are the highest denomination that can be purchased under this scheme, have proven to be the most popular choice for corporations and individuals who wish to make a donation to a political party. Based on SBI’s reply, approximately 94% of the total value of electoral bonds sold so far has been in the form of bonds valued at Rs 1 crore. Also included in the scheme are bonds with denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, and Rs 10 lakh. There is, however, little interest in these proposals.
Asked for phase-wise and denomination-wise details of unsold electoral bonds since 2018, SBI replied that the information was not available centrally since authorized branches were selling the bonds.
According to India Security Press, in response to an RTI request from retired Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired), the government has spent Rs 1.85 crore on printing electoral bonds. As SBI’s RTI response to Kumar mentioned, the number of electoral bonds printed up to that point – 6,64,250 – did not include the recently printed 10,000 bonds of the Rs 1-crore denomination.
On June 16, the Central Information Commission ordered India Security Press to provide Batra with the details of the cost and associated costs of printing electoral bonds. The government press had initially refused Batra access to the information on the grounds that its disclosure would harm the nation’s economic interests.