Allaying apprehensions that like last year, the distribution of free bicycles for school students might be cancelled even for the coming academic year, officials at the Social Welfare Department told The Hindu on Thursday that a sum of Rs. 4 crore had already been allocated by the territorial government for the scheme and the tender process would soon begin.

According to the director of the department, K. Uthaman, distribution of free bicycles to Class X students was cancelled last year as there were some issues with the bidding procedure.

Usually, the department followed a “double bid” process where the technical and financial bids were conducted separately.

In 2010-2011, after the completion of the technical bid, a single man committee was formed and a quality report sought, which involved an inspection on whether the manufacturer's products satisfied all requirements mentioned in the technical bid.

Mr. Uthaman said that though the report was submitted on time, the government had some “reservations” about the quality of the document and approached the National Test House (NTH) in Chennai for another comprehensive report.

“By the time the report from the NTH was received in February, it was too late to call for the purchase,” he said, adding that the distribution of bicycles was hence dropped for the year.

Also, the NTH had noted that the requirements provided by the department were “outdated” and advised a consultation with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to get the latest specifications for purchase of bicycles.

“We have already written a letter to the BIS and are awaiting a reply. Once it comes, we would call for the tenders,” he said.

While the original scheme mandated the distribution of the cycles to Class IX students, this was changed after the department could not implement the scheme in 2008-2009 owing to lack of funds.

Mr. Uthaman said that in order to ensure that students who were in Class IX then did not lose out on benefitting from the scheme, the department distributed bicycles to Class X students in 2009-2010. This would be followed in the coming academic year as well.