Free cell phone plan in hold mode [Mail Today (India)]
(Mail Today (India) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) DoT & plan panel at loggerheads over distribution of 2.5 cr free mobiles
THE Department of Telecommunications ( DoT) and the Planning Commission are at loggerheads over distribution of 2.5 crore free mobile phones and 90 lakh tablets to poor families, which could delay Cabinet clearance for the proposal.
The Bharat Mobile scheme will provide phones to households from where, at least, one member who has completed 100 days of work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2012.
Top DoT officials told MAIL TODAY that telecom minister Kapil Sibal has rejected the proposal, sent by the Planning Commission earlier this month, which proposed distribution of 8- 10 crore handsets with a Universal Service Obligation Fund ( USOF) budget of ` 6,000 crore.
Sources in the Planning Commission said they have proposed that the USOF administrator must invite a tender for free mobile phone distribution and involve private telecom companies. However, the Telecom Commission has broadly approved the proposal, which could cost the exchequer nearly ` 10,000 crore. In DoT's case, Bharat Sanhcar Nigam Ltd will oversee the distribution with no involvement of private telcos.
Top government sources said that the Planning Commission's proposal is more cost effective as it covers a much larger population with a lower budget compared to DoT's plan. The plan panel could send a negative note against DoT's move to circulate a Cabinet note to various ministries before it is brought before the Cabinet for approval.
DoT plans to put up the matter before the Cabinet for approval by January- end 2014.
However, if the Planning Commission raises objections to the higher outgo of fund from the USOF budget, the proposal could be delayed as the model code of conduct comes into effect sometime around February- end next year as Parliamentary elections are scheduled for April- May.
DoT on the other hand says the project will motivate more brands to set up manufacturing facilities in the country. Currently, phone makers, including Indian brands, rely on imports though Nokia and Samsung.
DoT says it will only promote' made in India' products to boost local manufacturing as part of the National Telecom Policy- 2012.
Telecom Commission's proposal may cost the exchequer nearly ` 10,000 crore
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