Dream tablet project
runs into trouble?

TRIVANDRUM - Fears over premature demise of India’s dream Aakash tablet project deepened on Sunday with Human Resource Development Minister Pallam Raju indicating a move to withdraw itself from the project.

By T K Devasia

Published: Mon 25 Mar 2013, 11:45 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:12 PM

He told a private television channel at Calicut in Kerala that the project had failed to meet its objectives. The ministry had launched the project in 2011 with the objective of making available Aakash tablet to the students at a subsidised price of Rs1,200.

The first generation of the tablet was scrapped because of poor quality. The HRD ministry is reviewing the whole project in the light of various controversies shrouding the project and the failure by the manufacturers to meet the supply targets.

Canada-based Datawind, which was contracted to deliver 100,000 tablets by March 31, 2013, has managed to deliver only 20,000 so far. Pallam Raju said the delay in the supply had eroded its advantages. There are a number of manufacturers in the market today to supply the tablet at low cost and with additional features.

The minister said that the government was concerned with providing the best contents to the students. He said that the system had become obsessive with a single device when the focus should be to enable the students easy access to quality educational content at all levels.

Pallam Raju who replaced Kapil Sibal as the HRD Minister a few months ago has already constituted two independent committees to review the Aakash project, which had earlier got embroiled in a controversy over its indigenous status.

Last year, media reports said Aakash tablet was a ‘Made in China’ device with majority of its parts coming from the neighbouring country. Datawind rejected the reports saying that they had used motherboards manufactured in one of their Chinese subcontractors’ facilities for the first 10,000 units for expediency sake.

Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, said the current delay in the supplies was caused by the verifications process that Customs needed to conduct on the exemption certificates for certain components issued by IIT-Bombay. He said in a clarification issued in New Delhi that all efforts were being made to deliver as many units as possible by March 31st deadline. Former HRD minister, who spearheaded the project terming it a milestone in the sphere of Indiana education, denied reports that the government was planning to shelve the project. He said that the Aakash tablet was “alive and kicking” and that the government was even working on the third and fourth generation of the tablet.

Sibal, who holds the Communication and Information Technology portfolios now, said that the government was considering Aakash as a platform for the future and not just for children but for all citizens of India.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) M P, M B Rajesh has alleged corruption in the award of contract for manufacuring the tablet to the Canadian firm, and has demanded a high level probe into it.


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