Laptop campaign can hang Akhilesh government

The Rs 2,800-crore expense could work out against the Samajwadi Party government.

Laptop campaign can hang Akhilesh government

Elections are due soon in India’s largest state, which is often the butt of jokes for being crime-prone, backwards and controlled by clannish concerns instead of development and progress, of the welfare kind.

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due early next year will allow voters to cast their opinion on whether Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s attempts to jump-prod the state by giving away laptops and tablets free of cost as part of the promises of the last election in 2012 have borne fruit.

The stumbling block may be something familiar, and not the laptops or the tablets, like the last mile infrastructure that can hold back the potential of the computer: power and data network.

“Akhilesh bhaiya has given us laptop, but what’s the use? We don’t have power at home and we aren’t trained to use them either. It’s like giving someone a gun and no bullets,” said a beneficiary of Akhilesh Yadav’s free laptop scheme.

The Chief Minister gave away the laptops and tablets to Class 10 and 12 students. The state government bought about 14.81 million laptops at a cost of Rs 2,800 crore and gave them away, officials told

But most beneficiaries have already sold them for a pittance. Some have broken down and await repair. A few students said the laptops were a good time-pass as they could watch films on them. But now they are disheartened, since many laptops are lying as mere showpieces at home.

In the 2012 elections, the Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Singh won 224 Assembly seats of the 403 riding on the laptop promise. But the 2014 Modi wave which saw the BJP win 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, leaving the Samajwadi Party routed, put an abrupt end to it all. went to find out what actually happened to Akhilesh’s populist scheme. Has it really changed the lives of students? But the facts which emerged were very shocking. Here are a few:

  •  No power, no show: Lucknow’s Lalbagh market, which was a popular haunt for tea and pakodas, has now turned into a hub for new and old computers and laptops. Students come here to offload their laptops, saying they cannot charge them since there is no power. The state is notorious for almost 8-hour-long power outages. Some people like Mamta of Kesri Kedha village, some 40 km from Lucknow, says they have to go to the next village to charge their laptops since the village itself doesn’t have power. Students including Mamta have demanded that the state government get power sorted out first. Some laptops exploded because of the voltage fluctuations, she said.

  •  Cheap laptops or weak processors: While the world is divided on this, many say that the laptops given away are of poor quality. Some students say the laptop is good but the processor is weak, leading to hanging laptops.

  •  It’s the training, stupid: Laptop vendors say the government didn’t train the beneficiaries on how to operate the expensive equipment. Nor were they advised to do courses. With no point in keeping the machines, many chose to make a killing by selling the laptops. This is not to say none of the students benefited. A student from Allahabad said: "I got this laptop in 2013, and it benefited me. At that time, I was doing my graduation. The laptop has changed my life. Technology has helped me connect with people. That I could learn a lot about education and government jobs. Internet is used in the right way. I found many new things to learn. "  This is the situation in which the Akhilesh Yadav government finds itself in. To win Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the party is looking to tie up with various parties. Because if it tries to gain mileage from the laptop stunt alone, it may well end up with a shutdown of its dreams.