UP set to distribute free laptops to 1.5 million school-leavers

By Mohit Dubey, IANS,

Lucknow : They’ll cost the Utttar Pradesh government a whopping Rs.2,800 crore and their distribution is set to begin, but each of the 1.5 million recipients of the free laptops being given to school-leavers will have no doubt where they came from – what with tamper-proof images of ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on their covers.

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The laptops were promised by the SP during last year’s assembly election campaign and in keeping with that, the images of the two Yadavs will be accompanied by the words “Poore hote vaade” (Fulfilling the promises) and the logo of the state government. Not only that, each time the system is booted out pops a screensaver with images of the two Yadavs.

While the secondary education board has begun work on the modalities of distributing the laptops to all Class 12 pass-outs, highly placed sources told IANS that distribution would begin at the end of this month. Sources say that in the first phase 10,000 laptops would be distributed in Lucknow and Mainpuri, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s parliamentary constituency.

Officials of the secondary education department from these two districts underwent a day-long training module at Gomtinagar earlier this week when they were explained in detail the modalities of distribution, technicalities and other processes by the Uttar Pradesh Electronics Corporation.

A senior official said that a prototype of the laptop was approved by Akhilesh Yadav last week.

The first lot of laptops, in black and graphite grey, Hewlett Packard (HP) officials said, are being imported from its manufacturing unit in China and would then be customised at its unit in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.

“We are ready to meet the timelines set by the UP government and would like to deliver the whole lot of 1.5 million laptops ordered within the time given,” Ajay Sehghal, the country sales manager (Printers and Personal Systems) of HP, told IANS.

“The guidelines of the tender specifically say the selected bidder should permanently burn the logo of UP government and other information provided by the government,” in the Bios and firmware. With 2-GB memory, expandable up to 4 GB, a 500 GB SATA hard disc drive, a 14-inch display screen, Urdu, Hindi and English language software, dual speakers, essential anti-virus, bluetooth and a webcam, each laptop will cost the state government Rs 19,058 including taxes and duty.

The government will also give government logo-inscribed backpacks for the laptops. HP has been asked to use “polyster fabric, branded zippers, sliders, a three compartment bag for text books, an adapter and a utility pocket”. The laptops will also have traceability identification through customised bar codes.

An education software pack has also been loaded into in the laptops, said Pravin Kumar, manager of the Uttar Pradesh Electronics Corporation.

The laptops would also have free open source Ubuntu and Linux other than Windows 7 Home Basic, he added.

After the distribution in the state capital and Mainpuri, the secondary education department is preparing a list of districts where the scheme would be launched in phases.

Secondary Education Secretary Parth Sarthi Sen Sharma has already written to all district magistrates informing them of the modalities of the laptop distribution. A web portal to monitor the process has also been created.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])