Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that he would provide beneficiaries of the Amma Vodi scheme a chance to opt-out of cash transfers. The beneficiaries will be able to choose between direct transfers or a laptop for their child from the next academic year. The free laptop scheme is applicable to students from Class 9 to Class 12.
At the launch of the second phase of the Amma Vodi scheme, Jagan showed the crowd a laptop and gave technical information about the model. The laptop will have basic features such as 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage, Windows 10 operating system, and Office 365 student-edition.
The government claimed that it is currently in talks with computer manufacturers, but no tender has been issued and no bids have been placed yet. However, the Chief Minister has already announced reverse tendering for the same. According to Jagan, the cost of the laptops is expected to be lower than Rs.18.500 whereas the original cost of a new laptop is between Rs.25,000 to Rs.27,000 each. No details as to which companies have expressed interest in the scheme are available as yet.
The free laptop scheme would be especially helpful for students in rural areas and those in higher classes. The importance of online learning became clear during the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were closed. But, issuing laptops is only half the work done. Andhra Pradesh has one of the lowest internet penetration in India. Internet penetration in Andhra Pradesh is at 31% whereas the national average is 36%, according to a recent study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India. Currently, the total number of households in the state is around 130 lakh but only 9.71 lakh households are connected with FiberNet, according to the state’s website, and a majority of rural areas do not have internet access.
The YCP government’s change in policy raises many questions regarding the administration’s competence to deliver on its promise. Students may not only lose out on monetary support but also may be unable to use the laptop to study. The government should ensure that proper infrastructure is available to the students to enable learning.