Saturday, Sep 20, 2014

Govt weaved laptop dream in 2012, yet to realise it

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Posted: June 25, 2014 10:42 am

Around three  lakh students of senior secondary classes across the state, who were promised laptops by the SAD-BJP alliance in its 2012 Assembly manifesto, have passed out of schools without even a glimpse of the gadgets.

With the current number of senior secondary students in Punjab being four lakh, their dream to own a laptop or even a tablet appears to be a distant prospect.

Though the government had almost finalised its  proposal during the tenure of former director general secondary education (DGSE) K S Pannu in 2012 — several IT companies were asked to quote prices and demonstrate their products — the students still wait for laptops.

Free laptop for Class XI and XII students was one of the most ambitious pre-poll promises made by the SAD-BJP alliance. But even after completing nearly half of its five-year term, the government is in no position to provide laptops, said an official of the education department.

“These are not even in the offing. I cannot say, if at all, these electronic gadgets will be handed over to the students this year,” he added.

After promising free laptops with a data card to students in its manifesto, the government soon realised that tablets were a cheaper and more convenient option and decided to provide the tablets instead of laptops.

In 2012, after the elections, the government constituted a committee under the chairmanship of former chief secretary Rakesh Singh, which recommended the purchase of tablets worth Rs 7,500 each.

Sources said that in July 2012, after demonstrations from several tablet companies, the committee recommended the purchase of 1.5 lakh tablets for Class XII students — worth Rs 100 crore — in the first phase of the project.

The remaining students of Class XI were to be given tablets in the second phase. Students of both these classes have since passed the Class XII examination and are out of school now.

At that time, the committee had even suggested that the tablets be bought with  over Rs 300-crore education cess lying with the excise  department.

The state had imposed education cess of Rs 10 per proof litre on liquor and had collected Rs 60 crore every year. Sources said that after the intervention of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Rs 120 crore of education cess was released.

Tomorrow: Waiting for shagun

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