No marks, no comps: Free laptops to come with a rider

No marks, no comps: Free laptops to come with a rider

The students who received free laptops in 2016-17. DH File Photo

The state government is introducing more stringent conditions to prevent the misuse of its populist schemes by beneficiaries.

The Department of Collegiate Education, which is preparing to procure laptops to be distributed free to undergraduate students across the state, will now introduce a clause that only those who pass first semester exams with flying colours will get the computers.

The scheme, which was announced in 2015, was originally meant for students of SC/ST communities. Following a furore, it was extended to all students, including medical, engineering and those who secured admission in private colleges under government quota.

The previous coalition government had cleared the project that would benefit 1.9 lakh undergraduate students in all disciplines. The tender process for the supply of laptops for 2019-20 academic year has been completed and is awaiting approval by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa for using his photos and that of the higher education minister on the devices.

Sources in the collegiate education department told DH that Anirudh Sravan P, who recently took over as the commissioner, held a meeting with officials on the free laptop scheme. “The meeting will continue on Monday as well. It was decided to provide laptops only after the announcement of first semester results so that only those who cleared the exams will be eligible," revealed an official of the department.

The government had distributed free laptops to students in 2016-17. Those who enrolled during 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years were also due to get them. However, the tender that has been completed now will cover only students admitted during the current academic year, 2019-20.

"During the meeting, it was discussed that just providing laptops will not serve any purpose if the students do not perform well. There have been cases where students have discontinued the course after receiving free laptops. To avoid such misuse, we have decided to introduce a few conditions before handing over the laptops," the official explained.

An expensive affair

Compared to 2016-17, sources said the cost of laptops has almost doubled. They are likely to cost Rs 28,000 each as against the previous Rs 14,500. The officials justified the hike in price, citing the three-year warranty period which provides for replacement in case of technical malfunction all through the graduation course.      

Bugged scheme

The scheme had raked up a controversy during its launch. Subsequently, the cost of the laptops also triggered a political row resulting in the formation of a House Committee to investigate the allegations. The then commissioner of the department, Dr M N Ajay Nagabhushan, had raised an objection over the directions by the then higher education minister Basavaraja Rayareddi. The commissioner had even written to the Chief Secretary, suggesting a single tender in place of a piece tender as it would reduce the cost.