Govt looks to PSUs for Aakash 2

HRD ministry not satisfied with Datawind, which manufactured Aakash 1. Chetan Chauhan reports.

| Updated on: Feb 06 2012, 01:19 IST
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Having burnt it hands once with a private player, the HRD ministry has decided to look at public sector enterprises to manufacture one million Aakash 2 tablets, the enhanced version of world' cheapest machine.

The HRD ministry, which has developed prototype of Aakash, wants the public sector Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) to participate in the bid to supply Aakash 2 tablets from April this year.

The ministry will require 220 million tablets in the coming years to fulfill its promise to provide a tablet to every college and university students. The ministry wants to achieve the target by 2014.

For this, the Aakash tablets will have to be sourced from multiple sources and the ministry wants to bank on public sector companies as its experience with Datawind, the company required to supply one lakh tablets by March, had not been very good, government sources said.

The ministry found many functional problems with Datawind' tablets tested by IIT students. The ministry was also not happy with the company selling Aakash tablets in the market before supplying it to the government.

'We have already rejected 3,000 tablets on quality,' a ministry official said.

What has prompted the government to look for public sector was inability shown by Datawind to supply Aakash 2 without cost escalation.

The new test specification proposed for Aakash 2 by Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan includes operation at -20 degrees, be water proof including heavy rains, and can with stand steep and sudden drops.

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Datawind founder Suneet Tuli had claimed that such a tablet can cost not less than $1,500. Ministry officials said it has not been decided to debar Datawind from future bidding.

HRD and telecom minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday held a meeting with public sector telecom companies including ITI to gear them up for supplying Aakash 2 at $35.

'We want public sector to participate in the bid to have a balance between public and private sector. It could also help in revival of these companies,' a senior government official said.

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First Published Date: 02 Feb, 21:32 IST