Out of a total 3,09,651 first year students across the state, tablets have been distributed to only 1,50,785 of them. Thus, over 50 per cent or 1,58,866 students are still awaiting their tablets.
With barely three months left for the academic session to conclude, more than 50 per cent of first-year college students are yet to be distributed the NAMO (New Avenues of Modern education) e-tablets by the state’s education department. While the state government has blamed students for their late registrations, there has been a delay of nearly nine months for the scheme in its third year.
Out of a total 3,09,651 first-year students across the state, tablets have been distributed to only 1,50,785 of them. Thus, over 50 per cent or 1,58,866 students are still awaiting their tablets.
The information was shared by Education Minister Bhupen-drasinh Chudasama in the state Assembly on Thursday, in response to questions raised by several Congress MLAs on the status of the distribution of tablets. The Opposition also questioned the price at which the state government purchased the tablets from the shortlisted private company.
The state government in its 2017-’18 budget had announced a scheme of handing out tablets at a price of Rs 1,000, against the claimed market price of Rs 7,000-Rs 8,000, to all students who had cleared Class 12 in 2016-’17 and were pursuing degree/ diploma courses in any college or university.
When asked about the delay, Principal Secretary (Education) Anju Sharma said, “The pendency is for the current academic session which is due to late online registrations by students. Even after delivery, testing and clearance take a lot of time.” Regarding the expected delivery to students, she said that the process would be completed within a month.
The district-wise details reveal that among 33 districts, the highest number of students awaiting tablets include Botad (98 per cent), Banaskantha (96 per cent), Sabarkantha (94 per cent), Bhavnagar (92 per cent), Dang (92 per cent), Chhota Udepur (90 per cent), Aravalli (84 per cent), Mahisagar (83 per cent), Vadodara (80 per cent), Mehsana (80 per cent), Panchmahal (80 per cent), Dahod (76 per cent) and Kheda (72 per cent).
With regard to the Opposition’s allegations, the state government later issued a statement which quoted Chief Minister Vijay Rupani as having said, “The tablets given to students with 4G and several other specifications are bought only after following a transparent global tender process.” The other specifications include dual sim, voice calling, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB internet memory, 5 mega pixel back camera, 2 megapixel front camera and android 7 operating system.
Further, Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama stated, “The state government is buying these tablets from Lenovo Private Limited at a cost of Rs 6,667 including GST and transportation costs. The allegations made by Congress MLAs that it is available at a cost of 19.56 dollars, which comes out to be roughly Rs 1,400 on Alibaba (online merchant), is only for the touch screen. The cost of a tablet with similar specifications on the same website is 99 dollars, which comes out to be Rs 7,128 excluding tax.”
In the statement, he also added that the cost of tablets bought by the state government is Rs 5,650 — which comes out to be Rs 6,667 with tax and transportation costs — and against this, only Rs 1,000 token amount is taken from students.
In the first year of the scheme, an allocation of over Rs 150 crore was made by the state government in its budget. Two companies, Acer and Lenovo, were shortlisted through the tendering process. However, only Lenovo is supplying tablets to the state government this year.
The Education department claimed that with the upgradation in the quality of tablets, the allocation was increased to Rs 200 crore in 2018-’19 and 2019-’20.