New Delhi: Internet-enabled cellphones could soon be provided to 2.5 crore people under the MGNREGA scheme. The ambitious scheme to be launched ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 is aimed at enhancing tele-density in rural areas.
According to the proposal, one person per family registered under MGNREGA scheme will be provided with the cellphone for which a recharge of Rs 30 per month will be provided for free for two years.
This will entitle the users 30 minutes of airtime, 30 SMSes and 30 Mbps net or data usage per month. If users cross the Rs 30 limit, they will have to get a recharge at their own cost. To get the cellphone, the beneficiary will have to pay Rs 300.
Sources said the government prefers to provide the cellphone to a woman member of the beneficiary family.
The scheme will be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) at a cost of Rs 4,850 crore spread over a period of four years to cover 2.5 crore beneficiaries, they said.
Universal Service Obligation is access to telegraph service to people in rural and remote areas at affordable and reasonable prices.
25 lakh people will be provided with the handsets in the first year, while 50 lakh more beneficiaries will be added in the next year.
The cellphone is likely to cost Rs 1,200 for which BSNL - the service provider - will undertake competitive bidding, the sources said.
According to the proposal, the scheme would enable people in rural areas to access information related to agriculture, health care, education, financial services, skill development and employment.
Around five crore households have been provided work in year 2012-13.