A day after HRD Minister Pallam Raju expressed concerns over future of Aakash,IT and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal today said the project for the low-cost computing device is “alive and kicking” and work is on for its third and fourth versions.
“I don’t want to comment on a distinguished colleague of mine. I only know that as far as we are concerned Aakash is alive and kicking. For me,it will provide the platform for the future and not just for children but for all citizens of India,” Sibal said in response to queries on reports of uncertain future of Aakash at National Editors Conference.
Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju yesterday had said that production of Aakash is a challenge. Production is where where the failure has come in,he had said,adding that if the production had happened on time students would have had access to the device.
The Aakash project was Sibal’s brainchild when he was the HRD Minister. The idea is to provide low-cost computing device at subsidised rate to students so that they can access Internet for educational purposes. Canadian company DataWind had bagged a contract to produce the first and second versions of the Aakash tablet.
Sibal said the HRD Ministry talked about about their contract with Datawind.
“Now,Datawind may have or may have not complied with the terms of contract. That is between them (the HRD Ministry) and Datawind and they can decide what they want to decide…That has nothing to do with me,” Sibal said.
The first version of Aakash was rolled out in October 2011 and later in 2012 the second version was launched.
Sibal said the joint working committee set up by him when he was the HRD Minister is working on next versions of Aakash 3 and 4.
“That committee consists of head of CDAC,IIT (Madras),IIT (Bombay) and some others. It has representatives of HRD as well. I spoke to Ashok Jhunjhunwala who is also part of the committee. He has told me about 18 vendors want to manufacture Aakash in India,” he said.
Sibal said that he was working on vision of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who strongly advocated use of information technology in the country.
“As I said I want public services to be delivered through Aakash.I want Aakash to be platform for 1.2 billion people of this country,if they can get a product like this which is cheapest in the world,” Sibal said.
Datawind was to supply 1 lakh units of Aakash version 2 to IIT Bombay by March 31.
Meanwhile,Datawind in a statement said till date 17,100 devices have been delivered to IIT-Bombay.
“29,400 devices are in transit to IIT-Bombay through our logistics company and shall be delivered in the next few days. 23,500 devices are manufactured and at sub-contract manufacturers ….,” Datawind said.
On the remaining 30,000 units,the company said “final assembly is being completed,which is expected within the next couple of weeks,although all efforts are being made to deliver as many as possible by March 31st.”
On commercial supplies,Datawind’s President and CEO Suneet Singh Tuli said. “We are currently delivering between 2,500 to 3,000 units per day to our customers commercially.”