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IIT-HRD tussle stalls Aakash tablet distribution

Face-off Educational institutions not ready to take tablets without IIT stamp; only 650 students have got them so far. Chetan Chauhan reports.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2012 16:35 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Chetan Chauhan,College students,New Delhi

The world’s cheapest tablet, Aakash, may have created a buzz but college students —its intended beneficiaries—are yet to receive them, except 650 initial recipients.

Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal had launched the tablet in October, but wrangling between his ministry and the Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur, which was to distribute the tablets, has resulted in this situation.

"As per our information, no other student has received a tablet. IIT Jodhpur was supposed to distribute them," said a senior government official.

Confirming the same, a senior IIT Jodhpur official said the ministry has not given them the go-ahead to distribute the faulty tablets. "We have asked the ministry to allow us to distribute the tablets that are flawless," the official said.

The HRD ministry had authorised the IIT to procure one lakh tablets from Montreal-based Datawind.

The company had already supplied around 50,000 tablets to the IIT for testing and distribution.

Around 17% failed the test and the company has not been able to rectify the flaws. But even the remaining 83%, which had no problems, have not been distributed. Educational institutions are not willing to take the tablets without the IIT stamp, an official said.

Fed up of 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 organisations and have no clue about handling 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 $35 to $50.

First Published: Feb 16, 2012 21:26 IST