Aakash may have created a global buzz as the world’s cheapest tablets, but it is yet to reach its target beneficiaries — students in India.
Though the Centre had promised six months ago that Aakash tablets would be provided to as many as one lakh students by March 2012, not even a single unit has been handed over yet.
The reason? Apparently, the tablet — being manufactured by Canadian company Datawind — is still being tested."As these tablets were for the purpose of testing, no norms for their distribution to students were laid down," the HRD ministry told Parliament in a written reply this week.
The ministry also said that only 366 Aakash tablets were distributed among students for testing at the time of its launch in October 2011. The feedback on the device’s operational utility, mostly from students of the Indian Institutes of Technology, was not positive — something that caused further delay.
The HRD ministry had fixed March 2012 as the deadline for receiving one lakh Aakash tablets. However, it told Parliament that till now, only 6,400 of the low-cost access devices have been received.
“IIT-Rajasthan has so far conditionally accepted 650 LCADS and rejected the rest. The number of defective LCADS had exceeded the stipulated 5% devices,” the ministry said, adding that the devices were returned on the basis of testing at a specialised laboratory.
When testing of tablets revealed a number of “flaws”, IIT-Rajasthan prescribed higher specifications, including a 700 MHz A8 cortex processor, 3,200 mAH battery and a capacitive touchscreen. The controversy over the tablets’ quality made the ministry transfer the responsibility of testing the low-cost devices transferred from IIT-Rajasthan to IIT-Bombay. The ministry accused IIT-Rajasthan of creating unnecessary hurdles, which the institute denied.
With the new IIT taking up responsibility for it, the ministry is expecting the delivery of the one lakh tablets by the end of May.