Indian parliamentarians get $1000 to buy tablet PCs and a custom app

As part of an initiative to go paperless, members of the Indian Parliament are being offered tablet computers for office use. Parliamentarians will be reimbursed upto 50,000 INR ($1,000) under the updated Computer Equipment Provision rules.

If iPad sales signify something, it has to be the demand for tablet computers. From education to light computing, the tablet form factor has finally become a mainstream product. Using a tablet is simpler than having to open a laptop to work on. Tablets have been designed to replicate the pen and paper metaphor for reading and writing. Applications like Flipboard, iBooks and Amazon Kindle have justified the iPad as an interactive replacement for a bag full of books.

As part of an initiative to reduce paper consumption and enable modern means of communication, the parliament has asked members to use tablet computers. The Parliament of India has two houses – The Rajya Sabha (250 members) and The Lok Sabha (545 members). K Rahman Khan (Deputy Secretary for the Rajya Sabha) said, "We hope to roll out the scheme in the next fortnight. MPs can order it through the Parliament secretariat or get the cost reimbursed. Tablets will replace paper and MPs will make better use of the literature as it can be carried, unlike voluminous paper reports." The project has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will introduce a similar scheme. TK Viswanathan (Lok Sabha , Secretary General) said, "We are waiting for Rajya Sabha to roll out the scheme and will follow suit."

According to a financial scheme titled “The Provision of Computer Equipment (Members of Rajya Sabha and Officers) Rules, 2008” each Rajya Sabha member was sanctioned Rs 1,50,000 (~$3000) to procure computing equipment for their use (PDF Link to the official document dated June 2010). As of July this year, this has been amended to add Rs 50,000 (~$1000) for purchasing tablet computers (PDF link to official document dated July 12, 2011). Last week, Samsung officially launched their Galaxy Tab devices in India and Apple introduced iPad 2 some time back. The parliamentarians can buy either of these devices under the scheme.

According to a research, Apple’s most popular iPad 2 is the top-end 64 GB with 3G variant. In India, this model is available for Rs 46, 900 (including taxes); this is roughly $940. Under this context, the 50,000 INR makes sense. (Whether our parliamentarians need the top-end version at the tax-payer’s expense while millions struggle for their daily livelihood is debatable.) The Android based Samsung Galaxy Tab on the other hand has two variants – Galaxy 730 for Rs 33,990 (~$680) and Galaxy 750 at Rs 36,200 (~$724).

To complement the tablet devices, Android and iOS applications have been developed by the National Informatics Center (PDF Link). The applications will allow the members to access the following on their devices:

  • List of Business
  • Papers Laid on the Table of the House
  • Latest Parliamentary Bulletins
  • Questions Lists
  • Members Birthdays

Interestingly, the United States has approved the RIM PlayBook for government use and Russia is contemplating banning the iPad for government use. As it turns out, for all the objections against BlackBerry, the government of India has not asked Apple to setup servers in India for their iCloud service.

This paperless, tablet initiative for both houses of Parliament will cost the tax payers roughly $800,000.

PS: The Lok Sabha has the same Rs 1,50,000 cap under the "Scheme of Financial Entitlement of Members of Lok Sabha for Purchase of Computer Equipment" (PDF Link to the official document dated October 13, 2010)