On August 15, Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to announce a new scheme to provide 6 million below poverty line (BPL) households with a mobile connection and free local talk time of 200 minutes.
The scheme is titled ‘Har Hath Mein Phone’ and is expected to cost the government Rs.70bn.
Post-launch, the UPA government is planning to sell the scheme as an empowering tool initiated by them. The government is hoping that the scheme will help them to connect with the beneficiaries, which are a sizeable voting population and plays an important role in elections.
From the Rs.70bn, half the funds are expected to be generated from the bidder who gets the right to provide the service, and the remaining funds will be pumped in through the telecom department's universal service obligation (USO) funds.
Opposition party BJP described the scheme as a desperate attempt to seek favour among voters ahead of the general elections in 2014. "First, electricity should be provided to people in villages. Without electricity, what is the use of free mobile phones?" asked BJP leader Balbir Punj, reports said.
Interestingly, ahead of the 2009 elections, the BJP 's "Vision Document" had considered giving smart phones to families below the poverty line.