Dear $35 Tablet, Now You are Dead. Now You are Not

Aakash 3Human Resources Development Minister Pallam Raju must have gotten his ears pulled by a certain senior minister for publicly declaring the $35 laptop project dead (nearly) earlier last week. On Saturday, he’s had a change of mind.

On the sidelines of an event in Kerala on Saturday, Raju told reporters

“It is a fantastic initiative by the ministry to develop Aakash Tablet, a mobile device that can be utilised by students anywhere.It was successfully tried out. The second and third versions have come out and the fourth version is on the anvil.” (Via PTI)

On Friday, the minister had said

“Let’s not get obsessed with hardware. The overall (issue) is how we enable students.”

The ministers comments were followed by obituaries for the Aakash tablet in media outlets including ours. The $35 tablet was previous Human Resources Development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal’s brain child.

Higher Education secretary Ashok Thakur had said earlier

“The idea was, once we receive the 100,000 Aakash 2 (revised version of the tablet), we will be more confident to proceed further. On the last review, we have a lot of gap. Also technology is not a stagnant thing.”

The Aakash project has faced many hurdles with Datawind, the tablet manufacturer chosen by the Government not being able to meet the demand in time. Datawind had also had disagreements with the Government on the specifications of the initial version of the tablet.

After the Minister’s had their say last week, Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli rushed to the defense of his company with a rather poetic line

“While detractors glee in proclaiming the project’s premature demise, our vision is to enable every child in India with such solutions, and promise to persevere against adversity.”

Mr Tuli added:

To date 17,100 devices have been delivered to IIT-Bombay and paid for. 29,400 devices are in transit to IIT-Bombay  through our logistics company and shall be delivered in the next few days. 23,500 devices are manufactured and at sub-contract manufacturers, pending shipment (upon payment for the 29,400 units). Of the remaining 30,000 units, the mother boards including touch screens and all other components are manufactured, and final assembly is being completed, which is expected within the next couple of weeks, although all efforts are being made to deliver as many as possible by March 31st.

So is the Aakash dead? Like all the government project, after all the publicity has been milked, this one is likely to be left in coma.

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