The United Progressive Alliance government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has three more ambitious plans for Below Poverty Line families, a source in the government told rediff.com on Tuesday.
The source said these three measures, even if not as big and ambitious as the cash transfer plan that the government will start rolling out from January 1, 2013, will go a long way in empowering India's poor.
Coming up first, the source said, is the plan to offer free mobile phones to every BPL family in India. Though finer details are being worked out, the plan will be executed in the next six months, the source said when asked about a timeline.
"Imagine the level of empowerment amongst BPL families once they start using these mobile phones. It will be as good a game changer for BPL families as the direct cash transfer scheme," the source added.
Dr Singh on Sunday announced that the UPA 2 government plans to offer direct cash transfers to every Indian in her or his bank account in lieu of indirect subsidies on various goods and services.
"Indians will have a minimum of Rs 4 lakh crore in their hands once direct cash transfers become a reality," the source said, emphasising that "as much as Rs 3 lakh crore from this outgo will go to BPL families that purchase their food and fuel requirements through the public distribution system."
According to the source, both direct cash transfers and free mobile phones for the BPL families will help bring about a permanent socio-economic change amongst India's poor.
Elaborating on the total expenditure that the Union government will have to bear on account of the free mobile scheme, the source said, "the entire cost of the exercise should be in the region of Rs 33,000 crore."
UPA 2, the source said, is determined to implement the Food Security Act on the ground in the next six to eight months. "That is yet another programme the government has envisaged to empower poor Indians," the source added.
The final and the third programme involves doling out free medicines to BPL families and will be routed through public health centres at the district level, the source said.
"But the finer details of these three programmes are being worked out," the source added.
If these three programmes, along with the smooth rolling out of the direct cash transfer become a reality, the UPA 2 government would have successfully diverted the nation's attention away from its scam-ridden existence of the first two years of UPA 2 and could help the UPA 2 combine stage a strong comeback in the general election likely to be held sometime in 2014 or earlier.