Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In a move aimed at reaping huge dividends during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-led UPA government has devised a unique plan of distributing a mobile phone to the female member of every household who has worked for 100 days in 2012 under the Rural Employment Guarantee scheme run by the centre.
Reports, Wednesday, said that a proposal in this regard has been prepared by the Telecom Department. If approved, this would be the latest sop from the Congress government to a sizeable chunk of population, which benefits from the centre`s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural employment Guarantee Programme (MNREGA) in the election year.
This scheme would come close on heels of a food aid programme, the National Food Security Law, which aims to distribute cheap grains to nearly three fourths of India`s 1.2 billion people – considered to be a game changer for nearly 67% of the population.
The Congress came to power in 2004 on the promise of providing employment opportunities to the country`s rural population under the MNREGA scheme. It hopes to retain power in the 2014 General Elections by launching the scheme to provide a mobile phone to those families, which benefit from centrally-sponsored scheme.
The government plans to complete the scheme within three years of the date of implementation. The state governments will be roped in to provide a list of eligible citizens for each village/block/district.
Though it is yet not clear how the government will raise funds to finance this scheme but in all likelihood, it could dip into the cash-rich universal services obligation fund (USOF), accumulated through an annual 5% levy on the adjusted gross revenue clocked by mobile phone operators.
At the end of March 2013, the fund had an accumulated amount of 27,949 crore according to the USO fund`s data.
The onus of providing the handsets bundled with a mobile network will be reportedly on the service provider, which wins the government`s contract through competitive bidding and will have to provide a warranty of at least three years along with assurance of easy accessibility to service centers.
These non transferable mobile handsets would have customized embedded opening screen showing details of the scheme and will allow the subscribers to access health records, and records and payment transfers would be through use of mobile number as the first level of authentication.
With agency inputs