World’s cheapest tablet Aakash may have created a buzz but the college students --- its intended beneficiaries --- have not received them, except 650 students who got them for trial.
HRD minister Kapil Sibal had launched world’s cheapest tablet Aakash in October for college students but wrangling between his ministry and Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur, which was to distribute the tablets, has resulted in this unsavory situation.
“As per your information, no other student has received a tablet. The IIT Jodhpur was supposed to distribute them,” said a senior government official.
Confirming the same, a senior IIT, Jodhpur said the ministry has not given them go ahead to distribute the “faulty” Aakash tablets. “We have asked them (the ministry) to allow them provided Aakash tablets are flawless,” the IIT official said.
The HRD ministry had authorised the Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur, to procure one lakh Aakash tablets from private vendor Montreal based Datawind, a company promoted by Suneet Tuli. The IIT had developed Aakash prototype with the ministry.
The company had already supplied around 50,000 tablets to the IIT, Rajasthan for testing and distribution. Around 17 % tablets failed the test and the company has not been able to rectify the flaws.
But, even the remaining 83 % which had no problem have not been distributed. The officials said the company had failed to rectify the problems cited by IIT students, who tested around 650 initial tablets.
“Educational institutions are not willing to take the tablets without IIT stamp of quality,” an official said.
Fed up with this tug of war, the HRD ministry has decided that the future distribution of tablets will be done by a public sector company, not an IIT.
“IITs are research organizations and have no clue handle logistics,” the government official said. The Indian Telephone Industries, a PSU under the telecom ministry, will handle procurement, testing and distribution of Aakash 2 tablets to be launched in April this year.
For Aakash 2, the ministry has asked three other IITs – Kanpur, Madras and Bombay --- apart from Jodhpur to finalise the specifications to procure the tablet at a price of US $ 35 to US $ 50.