Even as over 19.5 lakh youngsters have filled up forms for ‘Casptain Smart Connect Scheme’ — a pre-poll promise of the Congress party in Punjab —the government plans to distribute only 4-5 lakh smartphones by March end. The Punjab Cabinet gave a nod to the scheme Wednesday.
The idea of the pre-poll promise of providing a smartphone to youngsters in the age group of 18-35 years was conceived by political strategist Prashant Kishor. The party had given forms to the Congress leaders who had got these filled up by the youngsters.
The government is, however, not using the database, prepared after getting the forms filled.
Sources in the government said as per rough estimates about 4-5 lakh students studying in senior secondary in all government schools and final year of polytechnics and graduation at government colleges of the state, will be chosen for handing over the free smartphone. No student from any private institution will be included. The financial implication of the scheme on the cash-strapped government will be Rs 100 crore in the current fiscal.
Sources said the government will provide cell phones in second phase next year.
The government has a rough figure of a total number of students in public institutions, but the beneficiaries will be selected after Aadhaar seeding, sources said: “If anyone already has a cell phone on his name, s/he will not be considered for the scheme. Since all the phone numbers are linked with Aadhaar, it will not be difficult to find out,” said a functionary. As per the data available, Punjab has about 59 per cent of its population using cell phones.
Congress sources said the forms were handed over to the department of youth affairs, the executing agency of the scheme, as soon as the government took over. But like Ghar Ghar Rozgar and Kisan Karza Maafi scheme, the data, collected before the elections, was not put to any use.
The government is planning to spend Rs 3,000 on every phone. It has been decided to procure a decent smartphone having a touch screen after a brainstorming session of senior government functionaries. They reached a conclusion that if cheaper phone was given, it would reflect poorly on the government.
While the financial experts are frowning at the populist scheme, as they believe most of the youngsters in Punjab have access to smartphones, it was after a political feedback that the government decided to hand over the smart phones especially ahead of Lok Sabha election. It was being felt that the delay in keeping the promise was exposing the overnment to a negative propaganda.