Free mobile phones for all poor families, UPA promises

Free mobile phones for all poor families, UPA promises
In what could turn out to be its calling card for 2014 general elections, the govt is finalizing a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to give one mobile phone to every BPL family.

NEW DELHI: In what could turn out to be its calling card for the 2014 general polls, the UPA is finalizing a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to give one to every BPL family.

Sources in the PMO said that the scheme, Har Hath Mein Phone, expected to be announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15, will not only aim to give away mobiles to around six million BPL households, it would also provide 200 minutes of free local talktime.

Top government managers involved in formulating the scheme want to sell it as a major empowerment initiative of the UPA-II. While the move will ensure contact with the beneficiaries of welfare programmes worth thousands of crores, there is also a view the scheme will provide an opportunity for the ruling dispensation to open a direct line of communication with a sizable population that plays an active role in elections.

The scheme is likely to be funded from telecom department’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) funds. According to a source, 50% of the cost is likely to come from the bidder who gets the right to provide service and the remaining from the USO fund. According to estimates, the scheme will involve a monthly expenditure of Rs 100 per cellphone.

PMO is involved with the Planning Commission and telecom ministry in giving shape to the scheme.

The government has already launched a national infrastructure initiative under PM‘s advisor Sam Pitroda that aims to link 2,50,000 panchayats in 16 months through internet so basic communication facilities can be provided.

As our census revealed- Nearly half of ’s 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home, but more people own a mobile phone.Only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open. The remaining 3.2% use public toilets.About 77% of homes in the eastern state of Jharkhand have no toilet facilities, while the figure is 76.6% for Orissa and 75.8% in Bihar. All three are among ’s poorest states with huge populations which live on less than a dollar a day.

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