Centre plans to give mobiles, tablets, PCs to poor

Centre plans to give mobiles, tablets, PCs to poor

 With the next general elections close at hand, the UPA government mooted a proposal to give free mobile handsets to each family in villages and tablet PCs to 90-lakh students across government schools.

As per the proposal put before the Telecom Commission (TC), the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecom (DoT), the government has to spend around Rs 10,000 crore.

As the proposal is mooted by the DoT, it will be scanned by the TC headed by the DoT Secretary. Once the commission approves the proposal, the DoT will prepare a cabinet note seeking final approval.

The government wants to launch the scheme after March 2014. The coming Lok Sabha polls are likely to be held before May 2014. The proposed free mobile-phone scheme is expected to benefit 2.5-crore individuals in rural households, mainly those who are enrolled under MGNREGA while the free-tablet programme would cover students in 11th and 12th classes.

Apart from the devices, the plan is to offer free recharge of Rs 360 every year for the mobile phones for two years. This will include talk-time of 30 minutes, 30 SMSes and 30 MB for possible Internet usage.

Similarly, the tablet PC is proposed to come with a bundled SIM, Internet usage of up to 500 MB, talk-time of Rs 75 and 75 SMSes for a specified period.

According to sources, the tablet PC scheme is to be jointly funded by the DoT and Universal Services Obligations Fund (USOF) – a fund to facilitate telecom services in rural areas.

“Of the total cost of Rs 4,972.5 crore (for tablets), USOF will fund 60 per cent of the total cost (Rs 2,983.5 crore), for the eligible students in rural areas and DoT will fund 40 per cent of the total cost (Rs 1,989 crore), for eligible students of urban areas," official sources said.

The mobile-phone scheme, meant for mainly MGNREGA workers, is estimated to cost the government Rs 4,850 crore and allotment will be completed over period of six years. The final cost will depend on the bidding process.

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