Bengaluru: Already grappling with the enormous task of mobilising funds needed for a massive farm loan waiver, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is now facing a new challenge with pressure mounting on him to distribute free laptops among 1.5 lakh students doing their first year under-graduate(UG) course in the state. This was a promise made by former CM Siddaramaiah in the budget he presented before the recent Assembly polls.
According to an estimate, the free laptop distribution is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 180 crore which in the present circumstances, is big money. Earlier, free laptops were distributed among SC/ST students by spending Rs 30 crore.
The CM has already disappointed the student community by ruling out free bus passes for them, something which would have cost a whopping Rs 1,500 crore. Now, Congress leaders, especially Coordination Committee Chairman Siddaramaiah, are putting pressure on him to continue all the announcements made in the previous budget without delay. But Mr Kumaraswamy has been countering them asking: “Where is the money?”
A ruling Janata Dal (Secular) MLA admitted that there was pressure from the coalition partner to distribute free laptops among all UG students. Though, it was not a promise made by his party, this was the price they had to pay for joining hands with the Congress party to form the coalition government, he said. “We will do it but we can't say when it will happen."
Higher Education Minister G.T. Deve Gowda said he was yet to go through the files pertaining to purchase of 1.5 lakh laptops for UG students. The government has to see the availability of funds before implementing such a big scheme. Distribution of substandard laptops would not only bring a bad name to the government but also cause financial loss. "I will take a decision in 10-15 days,” he added.
Amidst this, Mr Arun Shahpur, a BJP MLC and member of the committee constituted by the Council to probe alleged irregularities in distribution of free laptops among SC/ST students, told Deccan Chronicle that a number of officials of the department of higher education who smelt something fishy in laptop purchase, did not appear before the panel to record their statements.
According to the BJP MLC, the department had purchased laptops at a much higher price than the market rate causing huge loss to the exchequer.
Besides, the tender process was not followed by the department, he claimed adding that two BJP members (himself and Raghunath Malkapure) had refused to sign the report as a mark of protest. The report claimed that no irregularity had occurred in the purchase of laptops for SC/ST students....