The Indian government is soon going to roll out its rural mobile phone project (Bharat Mobile Scheme) to offer a free mobile phone with Internet connection to rural and poor people, which was supposed to get over by August 15, 2013 but was pushed ahead. Under this plan, the Indian government will utilize Rs 7,000 crore to provide 2.5 crore households with Internet-enabled mobile phones. Also Read - BSNL Rs 197 prepaid plan introduced, 4 prepaid plans discontinued
According to a Hindu Business Line report, the government would charge a one-time fee of Rs 300 per handset per household. In lieu of this amount, a user would be given 30 minutes of talktime, 30 SMS and 30MB of data usage per month free for two years. Along with this, users will also get information regarding agriculture, healthcare, education and financial services through specialized SMS services.
The government has appointed BSNL for this project, which has been given Rs 5,000 crore against three years of free services. This amount will be taken from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which is collected from telecom companies to improve connectivity in rural areas.
While BSNL will be working as the operator partner under the scheme, the handset partner for this project is not yet known. However, earlier report had indicated the handsets had to be made in India. There would be 2.5 crore households to be considered under this scheme, which means that the handset partner (or partners) will have to provide 2.5 crore Internet-enabled phones.
In terms of the criteria for the eligible beneficiary, it has been proposed that the woman in every household will be the most eligible candidate to get the Internet-enabled phone. Men will be preferred only in the absence of a woman in the family. Also, as highlighted earlier a free phone will be given only to those household with at least one working member under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).