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Indian Government Mulls Giving Away Mobile Phones To the Poor 104

jalfreize writes "The Indian government is finalizing a $1.2 billion plan to hand out free mobile phones to the poorest Indian families (around six million households, according to some estimates). The Times of India reports: 'Top government managers involved in formulating the scheme want to sell it as a major empowerment initiative... While the move will ensure contact with the beneficiaries of welfare programmes (sic) ..., there is also a view the scheme will provide an opportunity for the (government) to open a direct line of communication with a sizable population that plays an active role in polls.'"
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Indian Government Mulls Giving Away Mobile Phones To the Poor

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  • So they can track them and listen in on their calls.

    • Re:I would guess.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by William Robinson ( 875390 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @05:38AM (#40928989)
      No. This is done typically in India, just before elections, to make sure the voters forget their inefficiency and incompetency while choosing their leaders. This is nothing, compared to 80000 Crore rupees (US$ 20.8 billion) loan waiver before previous elections.
      • ... I won't be surprised if 12 students, in the whole India, ended up getting the free device
        But of course, they will be photographed and will appear on the front page news tomorrow

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by hihihihi ( 940800 )

          photographed... just that!?! you are just humiliating us sir!

          they will initially be photographed and on front page tomorrow. by evening 5 of the 12 phones will develop some "technical" issue. As this happens, opposition will uproar about the quality of phones. by weekend, there will be a leaked tape circulating in media about backroom deals involved in buying of these phones. Of course, there will be demand for "very high level" enquiry from opposition and govt. critical media types, and ofcource, govt. wil

        • This is exactly what the GP claims it to be. A populist measure before the election campaigns start. Only difference being that it is happening at the Central Government level instead of being limited to a few state governments till now.

          There have been numerous such pre-election promises and surprisingly they work. Few examples [] in the recent state election in south Indian states for freebies []

          "Taking the war of freebies to a new high, AIADMK manifesto for April 13 Assembly elections today promised 20 kg of free rice for ration-card holders, laptops for students from classes XI, free fans, mixers and grinders to all and mineral water to BPL families."

          "free grinders to 35 kg free rice every month for 1.6 million poor families, free bus passes for senior citizens to free laptops for Dalit engineering students, increase in old age pension to new insurance scheme for fishermen"

      • This is done typically in India, just before elections, to make sure the voters forget their inefficiency and incompetency while choosing their leaders.

        A significant percentage of the population doesn't have electricity. I doubt that a free-phone will make them forget that for very long. I suppose those people would also have to be given some sort of solar charger?

        Although much has be said about incompetence and insufficient infrastructure related to the recent wide-scale power outages, A few things suggest that many have jumped to conclusions. Here's another possible explanation:

        1) They routinely have shorter outages from a practice called "load shedd

    • Now if they have their heads screwed on they will use this as an opportunity to be able to contact the poorest parts of the community when the next natural disaster happens and hopefully save some lives.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      They give phones to poor people in the US, too. [] They have for quite a while now. If you're eligible for food stamps, you're eligible for a free phone here.

  • by acidfast7 ( 551610 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @05:34AM (#40928965)
    "Programmes" is proper British English.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      In any case, the 'sic' should be in (square) brackets, not parentheses, as: '[sic]', when not part of the original quoted content.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:57AM (#40929649)

      Indeed. The [sic] here does serve a useful purpose though. It lets us know the submitter is illiterate.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

        What do you expect from someone who spells his own name wrong?

        He probably answers the phone and pretends to be from Newcastle, the fucking cunt.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        The [sic] here does serve a useful purpose though. It lets us know the submitter is illiterate

        You misspelled "aliterate." If he were illiterate, he wouldn't have been able to write the summary at all. But it doesn't matter, as Mark Twain noted, someone who doesn't read has no advantage over someone who can't read.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      "Programmes" is proper British English.

      I dunno .. its a step up from when I have submitted articles and have had the proper English spelling of words (that were quoted directly from the article) changed to their US spellings.

    • by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @09:47AM (#40930789)
      There's an interesting tale behind the word "programme" and its use to describe television or radio shows.

      When TV & radio listings were first printed regularly in the (London) Times in the 1930s, the listings were headed thus: "Television and Radio Programmes". But if you read news reports on the topic you'd see that "programme" was used in its traditional sense, i.e. this is a list of the programme of events. The individual shows they struggled to give a name to, as "show" or "series" hadn't gained wide usage (new technology after all).

      But eventually that heading stuck and people interpreted it to mean "programmes" as in "a list of programmes on today". So programme gradually gained traction in the UK as the term for an individual edition of a show. Well into the 60s the Times was still heading its listings in the same way, and by then the term was in widespread use.

      Of course in later years, the computer program would come into being, and as much of the theory and early development came from the USA, their spelling stuck when describing a set of instructions interpreted by a computer. That almost goes back to the original meaning of a distinct set of events addressed as a whole. But it means that in the UK we are now saddled with "program" to describe a set of computer instructions and "programme" to describe a single edition of a TV or radio show (and indeed a magazine sold at music concerts or sports events, or a set of individual events combined to make a programme).

      I'm not sure but I don't think "program" is used heavily in the US to describe TV shows, and it's an interesting example of how new technology can change the use of long-established words, even in just one part of the English-speaking world.
    • Our space program just rocket skycraned a 6-wheel robot onto Mars.

      It had alumnum in it.

      • I would appreciate it if I would at least spell my spelling-related snarks properly.

        Here, I'll helpa Brit out, "You misspelled the metal. It's not 'alumnum' but 'aluminium."

        Sigh. I shall slink away now.

  • "programmes (sic)" (Score:5, Informative)

    by cupantae ( 1304123 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <llienoram>> on Thursday August 09, 2012 @05:34AM (#40928967)

    "programme" is the British English spelling, and the predominate form outside of North America.

    Just so you know.

  • No electricity... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neither_geek_nor_ner ( 1002460 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @05:35AM (#40928977)
    When there is no electricity supply in the villages, this is an innovative way of giving 'power' to the people!
    • Well, when the elctricity is working to start with - big outage in the north of the country recently? And if you're poor there you may well be tapping into the power lines illegally - try plugging a charger in to those. You'd have thought food, clean water, sanitation and housing would be a bigger priority.
      • 6 million phones is much easier than what you are asking for (sanitation/housing/food supply infrastructure.) In fact, for a few USD/phone (including infrastructure), everyone is connected in manner that occurs by TV in the west (news/weather/warnings by SMS)
      • Re:No electricity... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @06:08AM (#40929167)

        Something I found interesting: in rural areas in africa and india there is now such a thing as traveling charger and internet access men.

        someone comes round the village once a week with a small generator or similar and often a few other things like a satalite dish and tools for some some repairs to electronics.

        He comes round, people pay a few pence to charge their phones or some other small electronics or to send a few emails. (a very important service since it means families can keep in contact when a few of the kids have gone off to work in the cities)

        It's hard to organise food, clean water, sanitation and housing without people being able to talk to each other.

        • And yet somehow a couple of dozen countries managed to do just that without 21st century technology.

    • Stationary bike generator. One person peddling should be able to charge at least 50 phones at a time
    • by Frohboy ( 78614 )

      When there is no electricity supply in the villages, this is an innovative way of giving 'power' to the people!

      A few years ago, I read about a tangentially-related (mobile phones without in-home electricity) situation with Mennonites using cell phones. (Apologies for any factual errors in my recollection below -- it was an article I vaguely remember from reading an in-flight magazine maybe six years ago.)

      Like the Amish, the Mennonites are nominally supposed to live simple lives free of modern trappings. However, some Mennonite farmers have devised a rationalization for using cell phones. In particular, they can be r

      • Technology itself isn't banned by the Amish. They even use some modern farming equipment. Just that it's pulled by horses. A lot of specific technologies are for various reasons, usually to do with preserving the community or to prevent the sin of pride.

        The Amish objection to electricity is primarily that they're opposed to connection to the outside world. They've always been allowed to use phones, but not allowed to have them in the household (i.e. they can go to a public telephone on the edge of th
      • Since I happen to live in an area with Mennonites... I'll point out that different communities go to different lengths about 'living simple lives'. Some local groups own cars, tvs, and other things that have a utility purpose. I would bet those ones have cell phones as well.

        Other groups are much more Amish (who also live in this area) like and avoid even utility items when something simpler works (radio instead of tv or horse instead of car). Usually the best way to tell an Amish person from a Mennonite is

        • One place I worked at contracted with a group of Mennonites that did ASP software development.

          So yeah, there is a VERY wide range of technology they tolerate.

    • It doesn't cost very much to put up a station for charging DC devices through solar. They have plenty of solar power.

    • No Electricity AND No coverage! yet Kenyans[1] in those out ward places still use mobile phones, and are better off with them.


      First, the logistics. The farmers send a boy to the nearest city with electricity and coverage, on a bicycle carrying all their cellphones. He leaves them to charge at one of the various charges stations that have popped up there, which ask for a few cents per charge.

      Then the boy can reply to any SMS as per instruction. Also, he carries out M-Pesa[2] transactions and reloads them

  • Let them eat phone.

    -Sonia Antoinette

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @05:58AM (#40929091) Homepage Journal

    like similar programs in the US, some politician is setting themselves up to get something back. Where in the US it is in the form of campaign contributions given the graft and out right corruption in India I would not doubt there is a whole chain of companies and politicians just giddy with this proposal.

    Far too many programs which help the poor merely use their backs and nothing is really done to not keep them poor

  • finances, voting, wallet replacement, identification: it is all converging onto cell phones

    therefore, for any country concerned with social justice (I guess this excludes the USA then) the poor must have a supplemented device

  • The Indian government is solely responsible for the poverty in India at this point - all the insane rules and regulations prevent people from investing in India. Starting a business in India is ridiculously difficult compared to other parts of Asia, especially China. Indian government is extremely corrupt in a way that prevents competition and prevents business.

    Government "providing phones to the poor" - what a ridiculous concept.

    Do you know who is the best to provide for the poor? The businessmen who are

    • Yeah! How DARE they not allow corporations to walk all over them!

      • 'corporations walk all over', yeah, nobody will have anybody 'walk over' them, they'll be stuck in perpetual poverty because nobody will hire them and the economy won't ever grow because there will be no people with purchasing power, because people will be living on subsidies, but nobody will be 'walking over them'.

    • What you'll find is that the vast majority of phone companies support measures designed to bring in additional phone users that don't cost them money.

      The concept here is "Network effect", and every phone company, no matter how small, benefits from being part of a large network where every potential customer knows that buying a phone gives them access to more than a rich minority.

      Oh, and most of your argument consists of the slippery slope falacy - which is exactly what it is. Virtually every modern nat

      • India isn't kicking your ass, the laws in India actually prevent competition.

        The other part of the world where this is a huge problem is South Africa. They have over 24% unemployment and it's all due to the labour market regulations and the government is coming up with more and more, saying: it's hard to find a job, so we'll make it even harder by telling employers that they now have to provide their temporary employees with the same benefits that their permanent employees get.

        So there will be much fewer te

        • India isn't kicking your ass, the laws in India actually prevent competition.

          No, they're kicking our asses. Even now. Even in the middle of a fucking depression in the US with people willing to work for peanuts, and corporations making record profits, jobs are being outsourced to India.

          That's a fact, and saying they don't because of a theoretical concept that is clearly untrue is a really dumb thing to say. It's an insult not just to people stating the obvious, but also to the numerous people who have

          • That depends on your definition of "kicking our asses". The US economy is 36 times as productive per capita as Indian economy (US per capita GDP: $48,000, India's: $1,300).

            Looking at the growth rate is misleading as you can't compare the growth rate in a developed economy (where the growth comes from marginal improvements in productivity) with a developing ones like India and China where the growth comes from moving population from medieval subsistence work which has no impact on GDP to a modern types of wo

    • Yeah,because giving corporations a free run has never gone wrong in the past.
      • Oh, and by the way, before I get out of here and before somebody posts a nonsense comment about 'robber barons' and freedoms for women and children, etc.

        'robber barons' - captains of industry, people who created entire industries, people whose 'crime' was that they were successful at what they were doing while others weren't prevented from doing the same with government regulations. 'robber barons' - people who made America into the rich nation that it became after the Civil war and before 1913.

        Children -

  • Tracking Units.
  • Oh momma! Thank Vishnu our leaders had the forsight to distribute these phones to curb the hunger of our impoverished. It's a little crunchy, but boil it long enough and it softens up some.

  • In East Africa, there's a money transfer service called M-Pesa [] that is home-grown and wildly popular. It uses cell phones, and everywhere you go there are green shops and kiosks that allow you to put in or take out cash. A lot of the people using it have never had a bank account before, and may never have one. From this point of view, a cell phone is more of a necessity and not a toy as it is in the U.S.

    For telephony, a lot of the third world leapfrogged over land-lines and went straight to cell phones.

  • I guess they all have too much of those, uh?
  • "Last year, a federal program paid out $1.6 billion to cover free cell phones and the monthly bills of 12.5 million wireless accounts. The program, overseen by the FCC and intended to help low-income Americans, is popular for obvious reasons, with participation rising steeply since 2008, when the government paid $772 million for phones and monthly bills. []

    This is bullshit. We should not be paying for phones, TV, Int

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