NEW DELHI: The world’s cheapest tablet project has been allocated about Rs 765 crore in Budget 2012-13, which is likely to trigger the second phase of the project expected to begin in April, even as the first phase is stuck in a deadlock.
The allocation for Aakash has been made under the National Mission for Education through ICT of Ministry of Human Resource and Development. The mission had launched the low-cost tablet project, last year.
According to official sources, the money allocated is ‘sufficient’ for the second phase of the project. Aakash-II is likely to cost the government about 569 crore for about 50 lakh tablets.
“Most of the money is likely to be utilised for the Aakash project. Some of it will be utilised for developing e-content,” said a senior government official involved in the project.
The billion dollar- five-year fund allocated to NME-ICT mission expired on March 31, which led to a fresh allocation by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Union Budget 2012-13. The new allocation comes even as IIT Rajasthan was unable to utilise about 25 crore allocated for phase I of the Aakash project, due to a disagreement with its vendor.
According to a government official heading the Aakash project, only about 500 Aakash-I tablets have been procured so far. However, according to Datawind officials, they have supplied about 10,000 tablets to IIT Rajasthan, for which they are yet to receive money.
Disagreement over specifications of the tablet has added to the deadlock. “Allocation of more money to a project which is not stable is not an established practice in government,” said Satish Jha, President of One Laptop Per Child foundation, which has a competing product in the market.
Meanwhile, the government has washed its hands off the deadlock, citing it as a commercial dispute between two parties. Nonetheless, Minister for Human Resource and Development Kapil Sibal said in Lok Sabha earlier this month, that Datawind will supply about 100,000 improved tablets.
Sibal also plans to launch a tender in April for Aakash-II, which are expected to come with a better processor and capacitive touchscreen, but at the same price.