Ashok Gehlot’s free smartphone scheme for women put on hold

The Mukhyamantri Digital Seva Yojana, a scheme of the previous Congress government that aimed to empower women digitally by giving them 1.3 crore smartphones, has been scrutinized by the current Bhajan Lal Sharma government, which has decided to temporarily halt the scheme.

The scheme, which received a Rs 16,000 crore investment and three years of free data for users, was announced in the 2023–24 Budget.

In response to an enquiry from Bamanwas MLA Indira Meena, the government stated that the project has been put on hold until its effectiveness is evaluated.

The previous Ashok Gehlot government provided  24.5 lakh cell phones to women before the assembly polls in Nov 2023.”A total of 24.5 lakh women were given smartphones with internet data for an aggregate amount of Rs 1,670.1 crore. The previous govt had set a goal of providing smartphones to 40 lakh women in the first phase,”  according to a response submitted by the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) in the assembly.

Meena stated “BJP is engaging in petty politics. The scheme was aimed at empowering women digitally. I urge the party to refrain from abandoning it and resume distribution of phones.”

“The scheme’s viability has been contentious. Distributing smartphones to 1.3 crore women when nearly 80% of the beneficiaries already have them is like offering redundant freebies. A comprehensive analysis will be conducted on the 24.5 lakh beneficiaries soon,” said a high-ranking CMO official.