Has Akhilesh's laptop scheme run into rough weather? (Lead, deleting figures in second last para)

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 03, 2013 12:50 hrs

Lucknow, July 3 (IANS) An ambitious scheme to distribute free laptops and tablets to students who clear Class 12 and 10 exams in Uttar Pradesh may have run into rough weather, officials say.

Against a target of more than 15 lakh laptops to be distributed among students passing Class 12, only 79,491 have been given away.

The scheme is said to have played a major role in the victory of the Samajwadi Party in the 2012 assembly elections.

Official sources cite frequent changes in the state secondary education department and the dwindling interest of the political leadership as the two main reasons behind the slow pace of the project.

In the last three months, the secondary education department has seen three secretaries - Parthasarthy Sen Sharma, Kamran Rizvi and now Devesh Chaturvedi.

"With the budget of the scheme being high, top officials are wary of signing on the dotted line and are simply not letting the files move," a senior official who did not wish to be identified told IANS.

The Uttar Pradesh Electronics Corp Ltd (UPLC), the procurement agency for laptops and tablets, has done its bit.

But the secondary education department which is the nodal department for overseeing the distribution has been delaying the process, the official said.

According to officials, laptops have been distributed in 13 districts: Lucknow, Mainpuri, Hamirpur, Bareilly, Ghaziabad, Noida, Etawah, Farukkhabad, Firozabad, Varanasi, Chitrakoot, Mahoba and Banda.

However, they say that 3.15 lakh laptops delivered for distribution in 48 more districts are lying in godowns and stores for want of finalisation of dates for distribution.

These include Jhansi, Kanpur city, Sambhal, Amroha, Balrampur, Barabanki, Gonda, Rampur, Agra and Kannauj.

Official sources claim that the laptop distribution has suffered because of tight schedules of political leaders including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

After a lull of several months, the distribution resumed in June. The last time these were distributed in Firozabad June 24.

District officials alleged that the chief minister's secretariat had been sitting on the files for the last one week.

"If we don't get clearance on the availability of the chief minister, how are we expected to proceed further?" asked an official.

The monsoon has also hit the scheme. "Many districts officials told us that they were not in a position to receive more computers as there is no place to store them," a UPLC official said.

He added that by next week 4.15 lakh more laptops would be handed over to the state by Hewlett Packard, the company which won the global tender.

"We are sending all the laptops for which orders have been placed with us. All laptops would be supplied by Sep 15. We are on schedule," said an HP representative.

The officials at HP are also worried about the losses in view of the eroding value of rupee in relation to the US dollar. "We are in for losses if the whole thing is not expedited," said one HP official.

State government officials are also silent over the eight lakh odd laptops yet to be procured for free distribution.

The cabinet approved the free laptop distribution scheme Jan 23. More than 15 lakh laptops were to be distributed among Class 12 passouts in the state.

Besides laptops, 26 lakh computer tablets were also to be distributed among Class 10 pass outs.

Four firms -- HP, HCL, Lenovo and Acer -- participated in the bidding process to supply laptops.

The tender worth Rs.2,400 crore floated by the UP government to buy laptops was said to be the world's biggest such tender.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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