In a move that is sure to haunt the local administration for some time, news has just come in of more than 1000 BPL (Below Poverty Line) cardholders in Rajasthan getting free cell phones from the government instead of food grains.
The incident took place in Ajmer, which is the home constituency of the Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology Sachin Pilot. Detractors point out that the government would rather let food grains rot in the warehouses than freely distribute it among the poor. Free mobiles and SIM cards that are valid for six months free of charge were distributed in Phagi Village, Rajasthan
Understandably, many of the phone recipients say they would have preferred to get the food grains, or even a job. Many of the BPL cardholders are clueless as to what use the mobile phones can be put to. The distribution was part BSNL’s corporate social responsibility plan, which is now proving to be quite an unwelcome gift for the recipients. This was BSNL’s maiden launch in Rajasthan and the plan is to include places in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in this drive.
People in Phagi village say that now, they will have to cope with the additional mobile phone bill, and do not understand why the government would rather give them phones than food, which is their actual requirement.
The Union IT Minister Sachin Pilot, was conspicuously absent from the function where the phones were distributed, but has defended the decision saying that this was a good move by BSNL, which would make people below the poverty line also feel like they are part of the telecom revolution. BSNAL says that their aim was to connect the BPL families with the mainstream population. The company is covering 1000 BPL members of 18 gram panchayats on this corporate social responsibility drive.
The Civil Supplies Minister of Rajasthan, who was at the center of a recent scandal which revealed that FCI godowns were being used to store liquor while food grains lay rotting outside the godowns, was also absent at the function. Hardly a consolation for the folks in Rajasthan, who now boast of having a phone, but are left with no option but to make that phone call on an empty stomach.
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