The row between Datawind and IIT-Jodhpur over the Aakash tablets became public on Friday with Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli saying IIT’s conduct was “unethical” and had “hurt the reputation of all IITs”.
While he felt the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) had extended all possible support to keep the project going,Tuli expressed “disappointment” over the way IIT-Jodhpur handled the project. He pointed out the IIT’s role was limited to procuring the tablet and there was no “technology input” in terms of design,creation or manufacture of the Aakash tablet.
The HRD ministry had authorised IIT-Jodhpur with a Rs 4,772-lakh contract for procuring 100,000 “low-cost access-cum-computing device” — better known as Aakash. While Canadian company Datawind bagged the contract,no more than 600-odd devices supplied by it were found good enough by IIT-Jodhpur,which rejected around 7,500 devices as defective. This triggered a conflict between the two that also forced the ministry to intervene several times and ultimately led to the Aakash project being transferred to IIT-Bombay.
Tuli confirmed that a legal battle could be in the offing with IIT-Jodhpur claiming damages from Datawind. Datawind has in turn shot off a notice to two of the IIT-Jodhpur faculty members for violation of the non-disclosure agreement,as first reported by The Indian Express.
Detailing how IIT-Jodhpur had rejected all but 600-odd devices supplied to them by Datawind,Tuli accused the IIT of plagiarising military-type testing specification from HP and imposing them for the Aakash tablet and also secretly signing an agreement with Datawind sub-contractor Quad Electronics for developing a ‘convergence’ device that could compete with Aakash.
Admitting that the quality of Aakash-1 may have been found wanting,Tuli pointed out that the specifications of that device were in keeping with those outlined in the government tender.
Later,we ourselves offered to upgrade the device at the same cost,replacing a resistive screen with a capacitive one and a faster processor as well,” he said.
According to Tuli,if all goes well,Aakash will be available to students by May-June.
The transfer process of the project — from IIT-Jodhpur to IIT-Bombay — is on. Devices will now be sent to IIT-Bombay for testing and hopefully after approval,the HRD minister will launch the upgraded Aakash-2 in May. By June 2012,Aakash 2 will be widely tested as students return to school. July onwards,it will be produced in huge numbers,” Tuli announced.
He added that Datawind would bid for developing 5 million Aakash tablets when the Indian government invites tenders.