HoDs corner laptops meant for BU research scholars

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BANGALORE, October 1: If the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) councillors can get tech-savvy, why should Bangalore University (BU) professors be left behind? BU has “gifted” all the heads and coordinators of departments a laptop each. Ironically, the original beneficiaries of several of the same batch of laptops were research scholars in the BU belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST) categories.

Vice-Chancellor B. Thimme Gowda said each of the over 50 departments had been given laptops worth Rs. 40,000 (approximately). Close to Rs. 20 lakh has been spent on this. “We decided to give them the laptops around admission time. This is all part of the effort to build the university’s image. We have received Rs. 22 crore from the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) 12th Plan. It is like buying new equipment for the university. It is university property. Once a chairperson retires, it will be passed on.”

Half story

But this is only half of the story. Sources said the 50-odd laptops were part of a batch of 134 laptops bought sometime in August this year. By that estimate, BU has spent over Rs. 53 lakh on purchasing them. As many as 67 of these were meant for distribution among research scholars (Ph.D. students) from the SC, ST communities. This was a result of a memorandum submitted by them to the former Vice-Chancellor N. Prabhu Dev soon after Independence Day celebrations last year.

However, a “miscalculation” by the varsity’s SC, ST cell of the number of beneficiaries resulted in BU placing a larger number of orders. To complicate matters further, the varsity then decided to make the students sign an undertaking before handing over the laptops stating that they will return them after their course is completed.

Students refuse laptops

Almost a year after mooting the proposal, the students, who were told that they will receive the laptops soon after their coursework is completed, are refusing to take the laptops.

“It is like the State government asking students to return bicycles after they pass out of school. We would have spent on software upgrades and servicing. What sense does it make to return them to the university?” asked Ravi Kumar, research scholar in the history department.

Not verified

Shivaraju. C, special officer of the cell, maintained that the cell had submitted a proposal for only 67 laptops. However, sources said the estimates given to the offices of Registrar and Finance Officer was 134, which were not verified. “Now they are giving away the laptops so that at least the HoDs use them,” the source added.

R.K. Somashekhar, Registrar (Evaluation), said the voices of scepticism being raised against this move was because computers were given only two years ago to all the departments.

As for the students, they are said to have now demanded a training centre for SC, ST students to be coached in computers, instead of being given laptops, during a meeting last week with BU officials.

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