Some time ago, we’d written about a scheme under which the Government wanted to distribute free mobile phones to rural households. The Rs 7,000 cr scheme was expected to be announced announced in August last year, but for obvious reasons it looks like the plan will become a reality closer to the elections.

The idea is to give 25 million internet enabled mobile phone connections to rural households.

Beneficiaries need to pay a one time fee of Rs 300 for the smartphone and a free recharge of Rs 30 will be provided by the service provider (BSNL) every month for two years, the Hindu Business Line reported. Citing a government official, the report said said that the recharge will give beneficiaries 30 minutes of talk time, 30 text messages and 30 MB of data usage a month. Information on agriculture, health and education will be pushed to the phones through text messages.

Image: RML Website

Image: RML Website

The handsets will be given to women first and men afterwards. The scheme will also promote “Made in India” products to promote local manufacturing. 

The scheme, likely to be called Bharat Mobile scheme, will provide phones to households from where at least one member has completed 100 days of work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in 2012.

The earlier plan was to invite bids from telecom operators for the project. But that doesn’t seem to be the plan anymore. State owned BSNL, which is making losses, will take up the project and implement it over a three year time period.

As we’d pointed out earlier, the program could be meaningful with the government’s plans on financial inclusion, direct cash transfer and programs like the mobile based fertiliser management systemMobile phones could be used with UID to implement direct cash transfer and to streamline multiple public utility schemes like the public distribution network.