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Free mobile phone scheme back on table

Government plans to complete the scheme in the next three years.

Written by Jayati Ghose | New Delhi | Published: July 31, 2013 3:56 am

The government has revived its plans to provide free mobile phones to rural households utilising the universal service obligation fund.

According to the latest presentation prepared by the government,the idea behind the scheme titled “Bharat Mobile Scheme”,is to use mobile handsets as a device to establish the identity of members of a household for transfer of benefits under various government schemes like LPG subsidy,scholarships and pension.

The idea is to provide one mobile handset to all rural households of which at least one member has completed 100 days of work under the MNREGA in 2012.

The scheme is expected to be funded by the universal service obligation (USO) fund which currently has over R24,000 crore unutilised money in its coffers. Telecom service providers pay 5% of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to the fund which was established with a view to provide access to basic telegraph services in rural areas.

The government has asked states to provide a list of eligible citizens for each village,block and district. It plans to complete the scheme in the next three years.

“Access to health records,land records and payment transfers would be through use of mobile numbers as the first level of authentication,” said officials who are aware of the scheme.

Under the proposed scheme,one mobile would be provided per household,preferably to a female member. The mobile operators who would undertake the implementation of the scheme would be selected either through an operator neutral competitive bidding or nominated by the government. “Final rules for the mobile scheme are still being deliberated,” said officials.

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