After a long wait of over three years, the Punjab government will finally fulfil a pending poll promise — handing over the first lot of smartphones to Class XII students on International Youth Day, Wednesday.
However, many party leaders are not too pleased that the government has directed the deputy commissioners and district education officers (DEOs) of all 22 districts to hand over smartphones at organising small functions while abiding Covid-19 guidelines.
The government has decided to hand over phones to boys and girls who have no access to phones and find it difficult to attend online classes amid the pandemic.
A Congress MLA, on anonymity, said he did not know anything about the decision. “Who has to contest the elections? The deputy commissioners or the MLAs?” he asked, adding that the government had not learnt anything from past experiences when the political leadership was not involved in extending government schemes.
A number of political leaders have rued that they were not involved in waiving the debt of farmers. Hence, people did not identify them with the government rolling out the benefit.
“It appears that the officers are running the government. The political leadership is nowhere,” said a Cabinet minister on anonymity. He said that as of Monday, they had not received any communication from the government that they will have to be present at the function. “They should have at least got the ministers to be present.”
A government functionary said that each district had nine Assembly segments. And it was not possible to gather so many people in a function due to risk of infection. “We want to keep the functions small. If more people gather, then it will be an issue.”
The phones, equipped with various smart features such as touch screen, camera and pre-loaded government applications like ‘e-Sewa App’ with e-content related to classes 11 and 12, as approved by the state department of school education, will be distributed. They will also have pictures of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
The government has decided to provide smartphones to1.78 lakh students of classes 11 and 12 by the end of this year. It has purchased the first lot of 50,000 phones, which will be distributed in the coming days.
While the communication about distribution of phones was sent to DCs by Education Secretary Krishan Kumar, the disappointment among the political leadership prompted the government to have the CM himself make the announcement. Amarinder broke the news on Twitter.
A government statement also quoted the CM, that during the difficult times of Covid-19, some of the youth were facing pressing problems in accessing online education content. These phones will be extremely helpful to them in accessing a host of information available on the web as well as other learning material posted by the department of school education.
Amarinder also said that the government has chosen the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami to launch the scheme. Coincidentally, August 12 is also International Youth Day, he said.
In order to avoid large gatherings, the launch will be organised in 26 different locations in Chandigarh and Punjab. All district headquarters and some major principal towns will be covered on this day.
He said not more than 15 students studying in that town/district will be invited at each location and handed over the smartphones.
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