Lucknow, March 11: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav today started distributing free laptops to students and promised to bridge the digital divide that was underscored by the absence of his father at the event.
The chief minister distributed over 9,000 laptops to students at Colvin Talukdar college here. In the next few days, Akhilesh will travel to hometown Etawah and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s constituency Mainpuri, among other places, to give away as many as 1 lakh laptops in the first phase of the programme.
The government has plans to distribute an estimated 15 lakh laptops among students over five years, for which a budgetary provision of Rs 2,721.24 crore has been made so far.
As Ankita Yadav, 19, a Class XII student in a government school, received an HP laptop from the chief minister, her face lit up. “I have a dream of becoming a lawyer and as I prepare for the all-India entrance test, this gift from the chief minister will be of big help,” she said.
Akhilesh then made a statement that reflected how far his Samajwadi Party had come from the nineties when Mulayam opposed the use of English saying it was a foreign language. “No one expected our party to talk about English and laptops but the party has responded to the changing needs of the time and taken the initiative.”
Like Mulayam, who was away in Delhi, Azam Khan, a senior minister not known to be an admirer of technology, also didn’t attend today’s event. Both were present at earlier programmes where Akhilesh has handed out freebies and unemployment doles.
Today’s programme came days after students clashed at Allahabad University while jostling for forms to get the free laptops.
The campus violence, former minister Raja Bhaiyya’s alleged involvement in the recent murder of a police officer, the Kumbh stampede and riots last year have fuelled apprehensions about the one-year-old Akhilesh government’s ability to handle law and order.
Mayawati has demanded President’s rule. Today, her BSP colleague, leader of Opposition S.P. Maurya, accused the government of trying to deflect criticism by handing out freebies like the laptops.
But Akhilesh warned his rivals against politicising such incidents.