The government will flag off its 'Har haath mein phone' scheme this August 15, reports the Times of India. As per the report, the scheme would aim at providing one mobile phone to every family living below the poverty line (BPL). As part of the scheme, the government will give away mobile phone handsets to around six million BPL families and also offer them 200 minutes of free local talk time. The scheme, which will be flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is expected to cost the government a staggering Rs. 7,000 crores.
The report further suggests that the scheme may receive its funding from the telecom department's universal service obligation (USO) funds. According to a source of the Times of India, half of the cost may be borne by the bidder who gets the right to provide the service, and the remaining may come from the USO fund. One of the aims of the USO funds is to make phone services accessible to rural and remote areas at affordable rates. The report further says that the resources for the implementation of the USO are “raised through a service levy fixed at 5 percent of the adjusted gross revenue of all telecom service providers except the pure value added service providers like internet, voice mail, email etc“. Interestingly, the government will incur an expenditure of Rs. 100 per cellphone for the 'Har haath mein phone' scheme. The government is also reportedly toying with the idea of introducing competitive bidding to get service charges subsidised.
One mobile phone to every poor family (Image credit: Getty Images)
The Planning Commission of India recently found itself grabbing national headlines when it fixed the poverty line to Rs. 28.65 per capita daily consumption in cities and Rs. 22.42 across rural areas. By doing so, the Commission fixed the nation's poverty ratio at 29.8 percent in 2009-10. The initial poverty line mark stood at Rs. 32 per day, and when the new figures were released, the Planning Commission met with a lot of criticism. A report further suggests that the PMO is involved with the Planning Commission and the telecom ministry in the attempt to finalise the 'Har haath mein phone' scheme.
Technology has always been credited for the role it plays in bridging gaps in society. While there is no telling how well the scheme will go down with the masses, it certainly is one that has made heads turn. Poverty is a major issue plaguing the nation today. A few days ago, there were reports about poverty declining in the country. The Planning Commission, late last week, affirmed that the poverty in the country had slipped to 26 percent, as per the latest data of household expenditure prepared by the NSSO for 2011-12.
This scheme by the government is certainly an ambitious one, and it is being seen by most in line with the 2014 general elections. At the moment, the government is looking at this as a way of getting welfare program benefits across to the needy. Only time will tell if the scheme bears fruit.