23 September, 2020

Hear The False Ring?

Why free mobiles to BPL folks is a bad idea

Hear The False Ring?

“Here you don’t have money to provide them food, and you are thinking of giving them phones,” scoffs a minister in the UPA government, obviously off the record. His comment mirrors the general negative reaction to the ‘Har Haath Mein Phone’ scheme mooted by the Planning Commission, which aims to provide a free mobile phone to each below the poverty line (BPL) family. The PMO is trying to play it down, saying it’s still under consideration, but sources say it may resurface later in a modified way. Here are 10 reasons why the scheme, at least in its present form, is a non-starter:

  1. BPL families struggle for basic needs like food and shelter, not a mobile phone. Says Harsh Mander, social activist and former NAC member, “Phones should not be an area of public expenditure. Food, education, health and social security should be prioritised.”
  2. Of course, just what qualifies a family for BPL status itself remains a subject of raging debate. According to Mander, 60 per cent of India’s poor are not...


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