Info-tech

Govt wants every home to have a mobile phone

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on October 17, 2013

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While boosting rural connectivity, the scheme will also provide relief to state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd , the telecom operator for the scheme.

With elections looming, the Government is stepping on the gas to roll out its ambitious rural connectivity scheme, which aims to link 25 million rural households with a free Internet-enabled mobile phone connection.

The beneficiaries will get a phone and a connection by paying a one-time fee of Rs 300. “Villagers will be given a smartphone. A free recharge of Rs 30 (Re 1 a day) will be provided by the service provider (BSNL) on the first day of every month for two years,” said a senior Government official, speaking to Business Line.

This recharge will entitle them to 30 minutes airtime, 30 SMS text messages and 30 MB of data usage a month. Users will also get information, mainly about agriculture, healthcare, education and financial services, through SMS.

While boosting rural connectivity, the scheme will also provide relief to state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd , the telecom operator for the scheme.

The loss-making company will receive almost Rs 5,000 crore over three years to operationalise the programme. However, the scheme will not require any additional budgetary allocation, as the Government plans to dip into the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which accumulates the cess levied on telecom companies to provide rural connectivity, to bankroll it.

Preference for women

In every household, the mobile handset and connection will be provided to a woman. Men will get the benefit only if there is no woman in the household.



Beneficiaries will be selected by State Governments and only one beneficiary will be eligible in every household. The beneficiaries will need to be enrolled in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. An MGNREGA beneficiary who has availed herself of the scheme for a minimum of 25 days in a year or is not below the State’s average will be eligible.

RISE in tele-density

Only households with no phone connection will be eligible. “During MGNREGA enrolment, it is recorded whether the beneficiary has any phone connection or not. In this way, the scheme will increase tele-density,” said the official. As of March 2013, rural tele-density was 41 per cent while urban tele-density stood at 147 per cent.

> shishir.s@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 17, 2013

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