DataWind has released a detailed clarification on the media reports that said the HRD ministry might shelve the Aakash tablet project due to delays in manufacturing and supply. DataWind, spearheading the Aakash tablet project, said that the delay was caused by the verifications process that Customs needed to conduct on the Exemption Certificates for certain components issued by IIT-Bombay, and all efforts were being made to deliver as many as possible by March 31st deadline.
DataWind also provided status on the delivery of Aakash 2 devices to IIT-Bombay:
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.
The 30,000 units are being manufactured at:
– H. S. Chawla& Co., New Delhi
– Delhi Control Devices Pvt. Ltd., Noida, Uttar Pradesh
– Digital Circuits Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, Karnataka
– RishabhInfrarealities Pvt. Ltd., Raipur, Chhattisgarh
– And at DataWind’s facilities in Amritsar.
DataWind President and CEO Suneet Singh Tuli said in a statement: “We are pleased with how our manufacturing has scaled over the last few months. We are currently delivering between 2,500 to 3,000 units per day to our customers commercially and have been recognized among the top 3 tablet manufacturers in India for the last two quarters in a row.”
Earlier, HRD Minister Pallam Raju had hinted at the Aakash tablet project’s premature demise due to various issues including the productionisation.
“… the other challenge is productionising it. That is where the failure has come. If the productionisation had happened on time, students would have accessed to it. The product exists but we are not able to productionise it as much as required,” HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju had said.
Raju also said the project had helped created an environment for similar other devices in market that students can use, instead of being too much “obsessed” with the tablet.
Kapil Sibal backs the Aakash project
Union IT and telecom minister Kapil Sibal, however, has contradicted his colleague Raju over the future of the ambitious ultra low-cost Aakash tablet. According to Sibal, the Aakash is “alive and kicking” and the government was working on the third and fourth generation of the tablet.
“I don’t want to comment on a distinguished colleague of mine. I only know that as far as we are concerned Aakash is alive and kicking. For me, it will provide the platform for the future and not just for children but for all citizens of India,” Sibal says while replying to queries on reports of uncertain future of Aakash at National Editors Conference.
Sibal pointed out the HRD Ministry has talked about their issues with DataWind.
“Now, Datawind may have or may have not complied with the terms of contract. That is between them (the HRD Ministry) and Datawind and they can decide what they want to decide…That has nothing to do with me,” Sibal said.
Aakash 3 and Aakash 4 in the works
Sibal revealed he had set up a joint working committee when he was the HRD minister. The committee had been assigned to work on the Aakash 3 and Aakash 4.
“That committee consists of head of CDAC, IIT (Madras), IIT (Bombay) and some others. It has representatives of HRD as well. I spoke to Ashok Jhunjhunwala who is also part of the committee. He has told me about 18 vendors want to manufacture Aakash in India,” he said.
History of controversies
It’s not the first time the Aakash tablet project has run into controversies. Last year, media reports said the Aakash tablet was a ‘Made in China’ device with its majority of parts being sourced from the neighbouring country.
DataWind, however, rejected the reports saying, “For the first 10,000 units for IIT, and for expediency sake we had the motherboards manufactured in one of our Chinese subcontractor’s facilities And then the units have been ‘kitted’ in China at various manufacturers for expediency, whereas the final assembly and programming has happened in India. We finished this batch of 10,000 units and delivered them to IIT and will be starting another batch of 20,000 units for them in two weeks.”
Also read: Aakash 2 being made in China a non-issue; so is the iPad
It’s notable the government has already showcased the Aakash tablet at the international platforms including the U.N. And now it may be difficult for the government to backtrack from the project.
However, the reality is the Aakash, said to bridge the digital divide in the country, is yet to see the light of day. We hope the government overcomes the negativity surrounding the project, and deliver the world what’s being dubbed as the world’s cheapest tablet.