Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Story of 'Pricey Laptops'

Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Eklavya, JEE, 2006, IIT, RTI, Right To Information, Act, Ethical, Journalism
In the front page of Hindustan Times, Kolkata Edition
5th February, 2011

Hindustan Times (Internet Edition)
6th February, 2011
IIT Kharagpur pushing pricey laptops
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times
February 06, 2011
The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is pressurising faculty to purchase official laptops at 35-50% higher rates than the market price, thus causing a financial loss to the exchequer. Internal correspondence between faculty and administrators accessed by HT shows that IIT administrators denied faculty the option of purchasing laptops directly, even after they were alerted that the listed rates were vastly exaggerated.

A Dell laptop purchased directly costs Rs79, 000, but the same laptop will cost of Rs1,07,120 — a jump of 36% — when bought at institute-listed rate. With as many as 470 faculty members on the rolls, the buy at the exaggerated rates could cost about Rs15 million loss. Teachers at the institute can seek laptops for either their projects or under any of the several government schemes.
But top administrators —including the Dean of the Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) and officials in charge of purchase in the computer science department have allegedly ignored requests from faculty to probe the “scam”.

The correspondence shows the IIT administration had asked senior computer science professor Rajeev Kumar to either purchase the laptop under the institute rates, or not purchase it at all. “We are only insisting that institute-determined rates are followed in the purchase. The institute rates are official, those obtained by individual faculty members are not,” an  administrator said.
But he could not explain why the IIT has not bothered to review its rates even after officials were alerted that the rates were inflated.

Clarification Issued by IIT Kharagpur
5th February, 2011

Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

February 5, 2011

It has been observed that certain information is being circulated in connection with a purchase requisition for a laptop submitted by Professor Rajeev Kumar from a SRIC project (code: VLS-8) of which he is the Principal Investigator (PI). Relevant information about this purchase requisition is summarized below:

  1. A purchase requisition dated 13th December 2010 was submitted by PI for a laptop referencing Empanelment of Vendors for the purpose of CPDA.
  2. Some of the observed discrepancies in the purchase requisition include:
    1. CPDA Empanelment Order is not an applicable Rate Contract for Purchase of Laptop from Projects.
    2. Submission of single quote with validity of one day.
    3. No comparison against valid quotations obtained in response to formal enquiry for this purchase.
    4. Requirement of full advance payment.
    5. Purchase Committee did not recommend the purchase proposal.
    6. Moreover, initial quote was in the name of Professor Rajeev Kumar with delivery in Hyderabad (copy enclosed) with a Hyderabad contact phone number. The phone number belongs to Mr Sanchit Bansal, Microsoft India Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad 500032 as available from the phone records (copy enclosed). We are given to understand that Professor Rajeev Kumar's son's name is Mr. Sanchit Bansal.

PI was informed on 16th December 2010 (copy enclosed) and again on 22nd December 2010 (copy enclosed) that there is no rate contract for purchase of laptop from projects and that the CPDA Empanelment Order is not applicable for this purpose.

PI was further intimated on 25th January 2011 (copy enclosed) that SRIC is unable to process the instant requisition further and that if he so desires, he may submit a fresh purchase requisition following standard purchase procedure. So far no such requisition has been received by SRIC.

Notwithstanding the innuendo being circulated at certain quarters, no valid purchase requisition for a laptop from any project under SRIC has been prevented without valid reason. SRIC would like to inform all Project Investigators that there is presently no Rate Contract for Laptops. Laptops can be purchased following standard purchase procedure norms, provided it has the sanction of the sponsor / competent authority. However, certain obvious irregularities and conflicts of interest should be avoided. Project Investigators are requested to contact the undersigned for any further clarifications.

Assistant Registrar


Letter to Editor-in-Chief of Hindustan Times from IIT Kharagpur
6th February, 2011

Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC)
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
Kharagpur – 721302, India

The Editor-in-Chief,
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times House
18-20, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi - 110001

February 06, 2011

Dear Sir,

This is to bring to your kind notice an article that appeared as the first news in the front page of Hindustan Times Kolkata Edition on February 5, 2011, a copy of which is enclosed. We understand that the same information has appeared in other editions later. This is in connection with the purchase requisition for a laptop submitted by Professor Rajeev Kumar to be purchased from a project administered through the Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) Unit of IIT Kharagpur.

The article is contrary to facts, thereby causing enormous damage to our reputation all over the world. Also, we are dismayed that no one from your esteemed newspaper considered it necessary to contact our office to obtain the relevant information and facts. This has hurt us to an extent that we cannot explain to you.

We do not wish to take up too much of your valuable time. A couple of aspects are highlighted below for your kind consideration:

  • We are enclosing scanned copy of a document that was circulated in our internal email that clarifies the situation to our faculty members. This will highlight the discrepancies and conflicts of interest in the purchase requisition.
  • The article in HT states that “Instead, the correspondence accessed by HT shows that the IIT administration asked senior computer science professor Rajeev Kumar to either buy a laptop at the institute’s rates, or not purchase it at all”. We do not know what documents establish that. We are not aware of anyone from HT requesting us for any information. From our clarification above (as enclosed) SRIC informed Professor Rajeev Kumar several times that there is no rate contract for project purchase and that he could purchase at the best price submitting valid quotations as per purchase procedure. It is not clear why a newspaper as reputed as HT should make such an allegation without giving us an opportunity to place the facts. Professor Rajeev Kumar has a choice of umpteen reputed places to obtain valid quotations and directly purchase the laptop, following standard procedure.

We could make a detailed rebuttal, but the above should be sufficient for a person of your stature to get the true picture quickly. From this you will clearly appreciate why we are so hurt that people of our country, collaborators all over the world and well-wishers, who hold us in good esteem, will get a wrong impression that will be almost impossible to wipe away unless you take it up yourself. We therefore urge you to consider immediately issuing a retraction of the news item in your papers at the same level of importance that the original news was flashed in the papers. We hope that you will kindly do the needful. We are eagerly looking forward to it.

Assistant Registrar

Letter to Mr Charu Sudan Kasturi of Hindustan Times from IIT Kharagpur
8th February, 2011

Mr. Charu Sudan Kasturi
HT SPECIAL Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Dear Sir,
I am forwarding an e-mail as attachment file which is self explanatory. This is in connection with an article that appeared in the front page of Hndustan Times Kolkata Edition on February 05, 2011. Probably the column is meant for the most sensible news for your newspaper.
The article is contrary to facts as can be engisaged from the attached file. I draw your kind attention for taking necessary action at the earliest.

Assistant Registrar

cc. 1) Mr. Sanjoy Narayan, Editor-in-Chief of Hindustan Times
     2) Dean SRIC, IIT Kharagpur


Other Documents Circulated by IIT Kharagpur

Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC)
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
Kharagpur - 721302, India

Date: 16.12.2010

Ref: Requisition for purchase of laptop

  1. Upon clarification it is found that there is no available rate contract made by the Institute with any vendor for purchase of Laptop which can be used for project related procurement.
  2. PI may kindly consider procuring Laptop with desired specifications following Purchase Procedure of above Rs. 15,000/- and upto Rs. 1,00,000/-.
  3. Justification for need of laptop for the said project may please be provided along with the completed Purchase Requisition.

Administrative Officer (Projects)

Prof. Rajeev Kumar
Dept. of Comp. Sc, & Engg.


Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC)
Indian Institute of Technology,
Kharagpur - 721302, India

Date: December 22, 2010

Ref: E-mail of Prof. Rajeev Kumar, PI of VLS-8, dated Dec 21, 2010 on ‘Purchase of a Laptop’ out of the project fund.

Upon clarification received from the Institute, it is understood that at present there is no ‘rate contract’ for procurement of laptop(s). It was also learnt that in the last HODs meeting the purchase of laptops vide Office Order No. IIT/S&P/RC/CPDA/Laptops/2010-11 dated November 3, 2010, as regards ‘Empanelment of OEMs/Authorized Vendors for supply of Laptops, has been put on hold. It is, therefore, again earnestly requested that the PI may kindly consider procurement of laptop, as per desired specifications necessary for the project, following available Institute purchase procedure on comparing valid quotations of identical specifications and warranty terms. This will help us to avoid any kind of adverse audit observation and/or subsequent query from funding agency. It may please be noted that the quotation submitted by the PI showed that it was valid for only one day. To process the purchase requisition as per purchase procedure we need appropriate number of quotations with validity for a reasonable time so that the requisition can be processed and order is issued. It may also be noted that the purchase requisition needs to be routed through Chairman, Purchase Committee.
The purchase requisition for purchase of laptop along with all documents sent by the PI is returned herewith.
Submitted for information please.

Assistant Registrar

Through Dean SRIC

Prof. Rajeev Kumar
PI, VLS-8, Dept of Computer Science & Engineering



January 25, 2011

Sub: Purchase of Laptop from VLS 8 Project

The undersigned looked into the matter and noted the following in summary:

Based on a purchase requisition dated 13th December 2010 submitted by PI for purchasing a laptop referencing office order IIT/S&P/CPDA/Laptops/2010-11 dated Nov 3, 2010 (CPDA Empanelment Order), PI was informed vide note dated 16th December 2010 and again later (copies enclosed) that there existed no available rate contract for purchase of laptop for projects. However, PI insisted on the same framework for purchase in every subsequent response contending that the views of SRIC was erroneous. It is established that the CPDA Empanelment Order was not applicable for purchase of laptop for projects (copy enclosed). Also, Chairman of the Purchase Committee has not recommended the proposal citing several additional reasons (copy enclosed).

SRIC is unable to pursue this further and will treat this submission as closed. If PI wishes to procure the equipment required for the project, he may do so by submitting a fresh, complete purchase requisition as per applicable purchase procedure, duly recommended by the Chairman Purchase Committee, as suggested earlier.

Dean (SRIC)

Prof. Rajeev Kumar, PI, VLS-8
Department of Computer Sc. & Engineering

Copy to: Head. Department of Compuer Sc. & Engineering
Assistant Registrar (SRIC)

Review of a few Claims of the Report:

Claim 1:

The correspondence shows the IIT administration had asked senior computer science professor Rajeev Kumar to either purchase the laptop under the institute rates, or not purchase it at all.”

Facts, Contradictions and Questions: 

(a) Professor Rajeev Kumar’s purchase requisition had several discrepancies and clear conflicts of interest. IIT requested him several times to follow purchase norms (as clarified above) and complete his purchase, which would enable him to get the required equipment at the best price. He refused. Why was he not interested in obtaining three valid quotes which would have got him better price? Why was he so adamant in approval of the purchase based on a single quote, with shipping address of his son in Hyderabad? Why does Hindustan Times hide all this? Why is Hindustan Times not even bothered about this side of the story which highlights corrupt practices followed by the person (Professor Rajeev Kumar) who they try to depict as a hero?

(b) The letters from IIT never state that he was asked to ‘either purchase the laptop under the institute rates, or not purchase at all.’ If that was so, why would he be asked to follow purchase procedures between Rs 15,000/- to Rs 1.0 lakh, if IIT wanted him to buy a laptop worth more than Rs 1.0 lakh? Why does Hindustan Times overlook this simple fact and talk about IIT forcing Professor Rajeev Kumar to purchase a laptop worth more than Rs 1.0 lakh?

(c) Why doesn’t Hindustan Times produce the ‘correspondence’ it refers to in its news report to establish its position? Why doesn’t Hindustan Times bother to even reply to IIT?

Claim 2:

“A Dell laptop purchased directly costs Rs79, 000, but the same laptop will cost of Rs1,07,120 — a jump of 36% — when bought at institute-listed rate.”

Facts, Contradictions and Questions:

(a)     Professor Rajeev Kumar is himself aware (as depicted in his own comparative statement) that they are two different models, namely ‘Dell M4500’ and ‘Dell XPS’ and that they are not the same laptop. Why does Hindustan Times say that they are the same laptop?

(b)    Dell have themselves clarified, saying the following: ‘Since these two models belong to two different class of offerings with technical and warranty support differences – it is absolutely wrong to compare them technically and commercially’.  Why did Hindustan Times not get it clarified from IIT or Dell before making the above claim?

(c)     Documents above show that Professor Rajeev Kumar was never asked to buy his laptop at any institute specified rate and clearly told that no rate contract existed for laptops for project purchase. Why did Hindustan Times not get it clarified from the Institute before making such a claim?

Claim 3:

“But top administrators — including the Dean of the Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) and officials in charge of purchase in the computer science department have allegedly ignored requests from faculty to probe the “scam”.”

Facts, Contradictions and Questions:

(a)   How come Hindustan Times publishes this without talking to the relevant persons above? Why does it rely on the claim by Professor Rajeev Kumar?

(b)   On February 22nd, the Departmental Administrative Committee of the Computer Science Department at IIT Kharagpur met to discuss the above allegations made by Professor Rajeev Kumar. He was invited to be present and substantiate his allegations. He did not attend the meeting in spite of being available. He was requested by the Head over phone, but he simply did not come. Why did Professor Rajeev Kumar not have the courage to come and defend his allegations?

(c)    Why is Hindustan Times not interested in a probe in the true ‘scam’, that is, the deep conflicts of interest clearly seen in the purchase requisition of Professor Rajeev Kumar where the shipping address is provided as Hyderabad and contact number of his son? Does it not consider this to be a corrupt practice or ‘scam’? Why does Hindustan Times blindly support Professor Rajeev Kumar in spite of being provided evidence of wrong-doings? Why does not Hindustan Times identify him as a ‘false whistle-blower’? Is this ethical journalism?


  1. While one would like, to some extent, to sympathize with a father (the Prof. RK of IITkgp) whose son failed in IIT JEE 2006 narrowly for falling short in subject cut-off, in spite of scoring well in total; while one would appreciate his anger towards IITkgp that conducted IIT JEE 2006 after losing the court battle in Calcutta High court; one fails to understand how being a Professor of a premier institution of international repute he is allowing himself to be swayed to this extent to harm the institute and its students who are from the best and brightest the nation produces.

    In Dec. 2010 he brought a wild allegation of ‘rampant copying’ against IIT students which his journo friend in HT, the same author Charu, published gleefully. This was again with a criminal intent to harm the institute and its students reputation. When confronted, the prof. again failed to show any evidence. I understand that IITkgp has started disciplinary proceedings against him and he could not defend any of his allegations.

    Amongst all these, confronted and cornered for all his misgivings, this prof. takes sensationalism to new heights by bringing wildest of the allegation last month. He says that there is ‘threat to life’ for him from ‘Director, Deans, Registrar’. This he does before a CIC commissioner who seems to give him special treatment (my previous comment on HT discussion board is appended at the end) and that was published in many a places.

    All the while he has been able to develop a myth around himself as RTI activist by firing RTIs one after another against IITkgp. He was careful not to file any RTI or report any ‘alleged’ wrong-doing of the institute where his son studied engineering for 4 years and not known to have better academic environment than IITkgp. He maintains a studied silence in activities just outside IITkgp campus affecting lots of common people that would always excite a true RTI activist. Clearly his diatribe against IITkgp is with malicious intent in an attempt to harass the IIT community, cleverly disguising personal interest in the garb of public interest. He calls himself a ‘whistle blower’ by maligning the term which comes as prefix to illustrious IITkgp students like Sateyendra Dubey. The idea is to be able to cry ‘victimization’ wherever suits.

    Now, the Charu of HT (author of this article and many other articles with this Prof. as only source of information) and this Prof. belong to the same breed of self-styled activists. Charu too hides his personal interest, the need to produce sensational stories that hook eyeballs and keeps his paycheck coming and also increments, in the guise of journalistic activism. Had this been one-off story, I would have considered him as a kid amongst the journalistic block who being over-enthusiastic forgot to cross-check or verify his source properly. But he is not. He is hand-in-glove with this Prof. who helps each other and both have developed a symbiotic relationship, dangerous for the society.

    I suggest taking legal actions against both. Since, IIT is a Govt. institution owned by people of India, any attempt that shows criminal intention can be taken as an act against public interest. All communications of the Prof. with his journo friends etc. should be probed and how the nexus treated each other in last 5 years should be sought.

    These are my thoughts. Most of my profound thoughts :-) in HT discussion forum have been deleted. No complaint. Rather feel happy that the nexus find those comments threatening and shows that what I say makes sense and is in the right track.

    Thanks Guru Dronacharya for this blog and opportunity


  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Excellent job... apt title for the blog would be Charuleaks or, even better, Goruleaks :-)

  4. Good job. I wonder why IIT is not moving quickly and letting one Rajeev Kumar with vested interests in disturbing the IIT system and irritating all serious people. This blog should be a good place to expose all other misgivings of Rajeev Kumar. RK made a completely out of the air and unsubstantiated accusing of "rampant copying" with his friend Charusudan in HT. While all insiders at Kharagpur know how blatantly false this is, I am pained to see that there has been no rebuttal in the publis space.

  5. HT has published one clarification today which is yellow journalism revisited. My following comment there may soon be erased. Keeping here for posterity :-)
    Charu and editor of HT, let us start visiting documents released by you. I have one request. Pls. do not delete this comment of mine saying it is 'slanderous'. It is nothing compared to what you and your source Prof. are out there to do for reasons which is clearly established.

    Doc.1 : Please tell if you know what is the difference between 'empanelment' and 'rate contract'. If you do not know, you can/could always cross-check. That you did not do. As it did not suit you. This doc. clearly talks about CPDA and there is no reference to ‘rate list’ anywhere. The prices were as quoted on sealed envelop bidding for empanelment who gave lowest quotes. Next, how is it related to project purchase of the Prof. which has a defined norm of lowest quote from 3 vendors. This was told to Prof. time and again. To show this doc. here is an attempt to mislead all and distort truth.

    Doc.2 : Admin. Officers tells Prof. about empanelled/authorized vendors who went through a process of sealed bidding as a point to start with when Prof. asked him to help. He then asks to take action based on rates and specs and he does not ask Prof. to be limited to that. Where is he asking Prof. to buy at higher price? If this is not slanderous on your part, what is! Wherefrom a conclusion as drawn by you and your Prof. friend comes? Who are you trying to fool?

    Doc.3: The comparative statement is the funniest part of the exhibit. That Dell M4500 is a much higher model than Dell XPS could have been easily cross-checked by Dell company itself. Even a new kid in the journalistic bloc will not make such blunder. And the less said about the computer science Prof., the better whose computer knowledge is now less than his students as all his effort goes into filing RTIs and long write-ups maligning IIT. For information, Dell has clarified that to IIT and defended its higher price of M4500 model.

    Doc.4: The Prof.'s comparison is wrong for reason stated above.

    Doc 5: There is no contradiction. Charu at his myopic best.

    Doc 6: There is no mention of 'rate list' as being tried to made out by Charu and HT. It talks bout 'empanelment'. Charu is trying to put words which are not existing to misguide Indian public and malign a public institution. It is now beyond yellow journalism. It is a criminal act and criminal proceedings should start immediately.

    Doc.7 : Kumar's response is in resonance with Charu, suppressing and distorting truth. Asso. Dean only acknowledged his mail.

    Doc.8: This clarification was requested as there was a feeling that IITkgp faculty already have laptops or so. This never says that there was rate contract before. HT is telling lies again and again hoping it would appear as truth before public. Pls refer to Doc.1 which talks about 'empanelment' and no 'rate contract'.

    Doc.9 : HT summarizes the Dept. Purchasing committee observation omitting the pertinent things that the Prof. was not following standard purchase rule which is simply getting 3 signed quotations. Kumar's email again was long in size but short in substance, following his own standard of suppression and distortion of truths.

    Doc.10 : IIT letter is polite and to the point. HT (Charu) letter bears the characteristic signature of yellow journalism and continuation of same criminal psyche.

    We leave it to readers to decide. Please read those documents with pointers given as above and as given by HT and compare to see how HT is trying to mislead the nation.

    HT (Charu) will never answer questions raised by 'slanderous' people who bared open the dangerous liaison between a Prof. and journalist who feed each other. Please refer to questions raised in the article The Story of 'Pricey Laptops' available at
    storiesandinsidestories [dot] blogspot [dot] com

  6. This is in response to the Clarification Issued by Mr Charu Sudan Kasturi in Hindustan Times today, 7th March 2011, along with a set of so called 'all documents'. A response to that has been posted in the HT blog. It is reproduced here because comments there are getting deleted by whom God only knows. Shall be grateful if you consider the comment below worth publishing.


    Dear Mr Kasturi

    1. You say you produce 'all the documents'. Where is the infamous 'Hyderabad Quote' that you surely have with you? Why is that not listed nor referred to in your 'all documents' set? That quote asked for the laptop to be shipped to Hyderabad at Prof Rajeev Kumar's son's address.

    2. Where is the Dell Clarification note saying that the comparison is incorrect?

    3. Even the documents you have displayed show your arguments to be wrong. Because,

    (a) Contrary to what you say, Prof Rajeev Kumar did not address the CPDA Empanelment Order. If he had to do that he could have submitted a simple letter to relevant persons or sent a CPDA requisition and not written to SRIC. We understand from IIT that SRIC is concerned with projects and is not involved with CPDA at all. Every IIT has a SRIC-like unit.

    (b) Prof Rajeev Kumar submitted a purchase requisition for purchasing a laptop for his project to SRIC. He was told after clarification that the CPDA Empanelment was NOT a valid rate contract for projects. This is what the IIT letter to Prof Kumar as well as HT said. [You have twisted the sentence by removing the crucial aspect and saying that a valid 'rate contract' existed. It did not.]

    (c) Prof Rajeev Kumar was simply asked to follow purchase procedure to buy his laptop at the best price. At best, if he got sufficient valid quotes, he would have got his laptop at a price equal or lower than his single quoted price.

    Why did he not do so, even after so many requests is what needs to be thoroughly investigated.

    Why was he insisting that his single quote be approved as such by everyone from the lowest official to the Director?

    Why is he forcing people to bypass purchase procedure for his own conflict ridden purchase?

    This is the real mystery.

    Why are you not interested to investigate that which obviously needs investigation?


  7. Here's one more showing how HT can work upon freedom of speech.