The much-hyped free tablet scheme of the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh is yet to take wings, even as the free laptop scheme has been set rolling. The tablet bidding process has come a cropper for the second time, which means it would be another three-four months before a company could be selected and awarded the contract. The ruling Samajwadi Party promised to distribute free tablets and laptops to students passing standard X and XII, respectively, starting from the 2011-12 academic session. An amount of Rs 2,800 crore was provisioned in the last budget. The break-up for laptops and tablets was roughly Rs 2,400 crore and Rs 400 crore, respectively. On January 23, 2013, the government had selected Hewlett Packard (HP) for the supply of 1.5 million laptops to 12th passed students. The free laptop distribution kicked off on March 11 in Lucknow with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav himself distributing the gadget to beneficiaries. However, the same IT majors, who were in fray for laptops, have yet not shown similar enthusiasm towards the tablet scheme.
Until the last bidding day on June 10, no company turned up before UP Electronics Corporation Limited (UPECL), the nodal agency appointed by the state, to bid for the supply of over 2.6 million tablets. In the first bidding process, three companies were in fray, however, only one company cared to submit the final test results regarding the tablet. Subsequently, fresh bidding was called and a pre-bid meeting was held where several companies participated, offering suggestions and raising doubts. Yet, no company bid apparently due to rather tough specifications set for the supply. "The mandated tablet specifications should be practical for the manufacturers. We have provided our feedback to the government and hope that the modified specifications for the bidding are incorporated," a top executive with an IT manufacturer had told Business Standard last month. "About 15-20 companies had participated in the pre-bid conference and raised over 300 queries, which in fact is substantial number," state principal secretary IT & Electronics Jiwesh Nandan informed. He maintained the government was firm that the bidding should ensure competition amongst prospective suppliers. "A fresh bidding process would be undertaken now," he added. Interestingly, while UP is grappling to fulfill its freebie promise for the 2012 academic year, the new crop of 2013 passed out students is already there seeking their gadgets.