Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 10:
The long-delayed distribution of free laptops to meritorius Plus Two students in Odisha who passed out in 2014 started on Thursday with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik handing out laptops to about 100 students at the BJB Autonomous College here.
Over 15, 000 Plus Two students, including 203 from the 2013 batch, are set to get free laptops before the backlog is cleared and distribution for this year can begin.
Sources in the Higher Education department say the distribution of laptop to the 2014 batch students would be completed by the end of this month and to the 2015 batch by the end of October.
But this looks a tall order given the government’s failure to complete the distribution so far and repeated shifting of dates for the resumption of the process since 2013. On July 3o, for instance, the state government had announced after a customary ‘high-level meeting’ that distribution of free laptops to 2014 batch students would resume in the first week of August and end by month-end. While 5, 000 laptops would be distributed by August 12, the rest would be completed by the end of August.
When it became obvious that the deadline cannot be met, it was announced, after yet another ‘high-level meeting’ on August 6, that the distribution of laptops would resume on August 12 when the Chief Minister would hand over laptops to 50 students in Brahmapur. The process would be completed by August end, it was reiterated.
But August 12 came and went as did the whole of the month without any sign of the elusive laptops. In fact, OST had the mortification of being bombarded with queries from anxious would-be beneficiaries asking us when the process would start after we publiched the news. Needless to say, OST did not have an anwer to the question.
When questions started being asked about the missing laptops, an embarrassed government sought to put the blame on the company chosen for the purpose (Acer) for failing to supply the machines in time. But the actual reason for the delay was the face-off between the Higher Education and IT departments, both of which were keen to get the responsibility for procuring the laptops. (No prizes for guessing why they were so keen!). In the end, the IT department won the day with the Higher Education left carrying the can as it were with only the job of preparing the list of beneficiaries.
With this background, the government’s promise that the backlog would be cleared by September has to be taken with a bagful of salt.
Sources say despite straining every sinew, Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC), the nodal agency for the purchase of laptops, is able to test and certify no more than 500 laptops a day. At this rate, it would take 30 days to complete the certification – and more if Sundays and other holidays are taken into account. And one is not even talking about laptops to the 2015 batch students!
Curiously, the gross failure to provide laptops to the students has not emabarrassed the government enough to stop promising the moon to the starry-eyed students.
At the function at BJB on Thursday, the Chief Minister announced that the government aims at providing all college and university campuses in the state with Wi-Fi connectivity.
“All colleges and universities in the state will have a career counselling cell and will be provided with Wi-Fi connectivity,” he said.
To make students ready for the job market as soon as they pass out from the colleges, the government is planning at various skill development courses in the degree and plus-two colleges, the Chief Minister said.
Youth will be educated in social and economic matters to develop their leadership and entrepreneurship qualities. To improve English speaking and writing, language and communication lab have been set up in colleges, he added.
Minister of Higher education, science and technology, Dr Pradeep Panigrahi, Culture and tourism minister Ashok Panda, MLA Bijaya Mohanty, MLA Priyadarshi Mishra, BJB college principal, were present in the event.