More than 23 lakh students stand to lose out under the state government’s flagship laptop distribution scheme, which has failed to take off for the students who had passed Class 12 last year.
Not only this, there is another set of students — nearly 31 lakhs — that is all set to appear for their Class 12 examination this year. A senior official said procurement of the electronic gadgets will not be possible before the Lok Sabha elections.
”With the laptops being procured at a higher rate this time, it will cost the state exchequer more than Rs 6,000 crore to provide free laptops to around 30 lakh students, which may prove to be a heavy burden,” said an official with the IT and Electronics Department, the agency responsible for the procurement of laptops.
After announcing in its 2012 Assembly election manifesto that free laptops will be distributed to students passing Class 12 and tablets to those passing Class 10, the state government entered into a contract with Hewlett-Packard for 15 lakh laptops at Rs 19,058 each.
The government could never get a supplier for the tablets. Government officials said with the completion of the last phase of distribution on December 14, the state had, in total, spent around Rs 2,900 crore under this scheme, which both Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav have, in their respective speeches, highlighted as an achievement.
But after running for only a year, the scheme has come to an abrupt halt as the distribution process for the around 23 lakh students from last year is yet to begin, even as another 31 lakh students are all set to become eligible under the scheme by the end of this year.
Dismissing any doubts that may have arisen because of the delay, Secretary in the Secondary Education Department, Jitendra Kumar, said “the scheme will continue”.
“Although, so far, the state government has not issued any directive for the procurement of laptops for those students who had passed class 12 in 2013,” he said. And nor has the state government issued any directive so far for “fresh procurements” either, according to the electronics department official.