Samajwadi smartphones: Another attempt to woo voters

A PIL challenges the scheme because it was

GN Bureau | October 10, 2016


#Assembly Polls   #Mulayam Singh Yadav   #Uttar Pradesh   #SP   #Akhilesh Yadav   #Samajwadi Party   #Samajwadi Smartphones  


After the exit polls predicted a majority for the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, a mad rush was seen outside government employment exchange offices across the state. Over 10,000 people on average registered their names at each office in the first week of the new government to get listed as beneficiaries of laptop and unemployment allowance – which the party had promised in its manifesto.


About 2,000-2,500 people started assembling at these nondescript employment exchange offices which otherwise exist in oblivion. The UP free laptop distribution scheme and unemployment allowance scheme launched with fanfare in 2012 by CM Akhilesh Yadav were discontinued in 2014 amid reports that the state had no funds to run these initiatives. In its budget 2015-16, the state government reintroduced the scheme only for a limited group.

The Samajwadi Party once again come up with an election handout. This time, the government is ready with its free smartphone scheme (called Samajwadi Smartphone Yojana) which is being termed as "the world’s biggest attempt to bridge the digital divide".

While on October 10 Akhilesh launched the online registration process to avail the schemme, what is interesting is that the distribution of the smartphones will start by the second half of next year. Which means smartphones will be distributed only if the SP retains power in 2017 polls. Thus, the smartphone scheme seems more like a manifesto than a ‘digital reform’.

The scheme is not confined to the BPL families, farmers or students. In fact, the criteria set by the government to distribute smartphones might raise the question about the target beneficiaries, which include people who can actually afford a smartphone or must be possessing one. For example, if you earn Rs 6 lakh or less or nothing, you are entitled to get the smartphone. 

The scheme was challenged in the Allahabad high court by petitioner Ajmal Khan who said it was "bad in eyes of law as it was an allurement for voters". But on October 7 the high court dismissed the PIL, saying, “Since the petitioner has failed to place any such provision which bars making such declarations..., no interference of this court is warranted."

The high court, however, said that keeping in view the petitioner's enthusiasm for a free and fair election, "we hereby give him liberty to suggest some preventive measures to the election commission of India or chief electoral officer of the state to be adopted for conducting the election fairly".

 

 

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