After announcing laptops with data card for Class XI and XII students in its January poll manifesto and later downsizing it to tablets only for Class XII students in its June budget, the state government is now waiting for the Union Human Resource Development Ministry to fulfill its promise first.
The state education department has decided not to issue tender for the tablets but avail the Centre’s largesse for schoolchildren. “Though a committee was formed on the matter, no tenders were finally floated since HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has also announced that tablets will be given to schoolchildren throughout the country. Aakash tablets are touted as the best in technology and are also economical, so why should Punjab not avail the benefit of the scheme? We have asked the HRD Ministry if the Aakash tablets will also be distributed to students in Punjab and are waiting for their response,” said Punjab Director General (Education) K S Pannu.
In the game of one-upmanship in the run-up to the state polls, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had announced laptops for schoolchildren in SAD’s election manifesto against Congress’ promise to give subsidy on Aakash tablets. But on retaining power, the cash-strapped finance department pegged the cost of providing laptops to three lakh Classes XI and XII students to Rs 420 crore — pricing each laptop at Rs 14,000, as provided by the Tamil Nadu government.
Later, it decided to distribute “more useful and economical” tablets, which would have cut the cost by half, as bulk purchase of tablets would have cost the state Rs 7,000 each. In a review meeting convened recently by the finance department, the education department was asked to rollout the tablets before the Assembly session starting December 17. But the latter has now decided do some more cost-cutting by waiting for the UPA scheme.
Though SAD had been inspired by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s poll manifesto, the latter’s government has already floated a e-tender to select the project’s consultant. The Kerela government, too, has announced that tablets will be distributed to schoolchildren through local bodies and parent-teacher associations.
Not just tablets, meeting the Assembly session deadline also looks difficult for SAD’s government’s other poll promise of Rs 1,000 employability allowance — also announced in the June budget.
A decision on the norms for the allowance was first delayed after the file went missing last month. In