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The Election Commission (EC) has readied a Tk 580 crore project for preparing the electoral roll with photographs along with national identity (NID) cards.

The project, launched this year and to be completed in 2010, still needs the approval of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) -- the highest government body that examines, appraises and gives final approval to all development projects and programmes of the country, sources in the EC Secretariat said.

Besides, the EC Secretariat is making preparations to sign agreements with different donor agencies for financial assistance in the project titled "Preparation of Electoral Rolls with Photographs and Facilitating the Issuance of National Identity Card", added the sources.

"We are hopeful to complete the process of signing agreements with the donors this month," said Aminul Islam Bhuiyan, secretary to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) that initiated the move to collect foreign funds for the project, while talking to The Daily Star.

According to a document prepared by the EC Secretariat and the officials of planning ministry for a meeting of the EC, the government will finance about Tk 236 crore for the project while various donor agencies will provide Tk 344 crore.

At a meeting last May with the ERD, as many as 23 donor agencies including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Commission, and Department For International Development (DFID) agreed to provide funds for the EC project.

The EC, however, has already started the process of purchasing necessary equipment for preparing the electoral roll on an emergency basis since it intends to complete the task within the 18-month timeframe it had announced earlier, reads the EC's document mentioning that the project proposal is now at the planning ministry and it will be placed before the ECNEC for final approval.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed yesterday formally inaugurated EC's preparation of electoral roll in Rajshahi City Corporation area.

The task is supposed to be completed by October next year when only eligible voters will receive the NID cards to be able to vote in the elections scheduled for December 2008.

Once the project is approved by ECNEC, it will be continued till 2010 so that NID cards can be issued to the citizens ineligible to be voters in 2008. Also under the same project, the EC will update the electoral roll in 2009 and 2010.

The EC has asked the government to introduce a law making it mandatory to produce the NID card when a citizen wishes to avail a number of important services in the country. It also advised the government to set up a National Registration and Database Authority (NRDA) for collecting details of the citizens of the country for the preparation of NID cards.

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