The Uttar Pradesh government will distribute over 25 lakh free smartphones to meritorious students in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections under the Swami Vivekananda Youth Empowerment Scheme.
Government officials said the first phase of the scheme will be rolled out from October for which Rs 372 crore has already been sanctioned. The first lot will include 3.75 lakh Samsung phones while the rest will be of the Lava brand.
“In the current financial year, a budget of Rs 3,600 crore has been approved for the scheme that not only includes distribution of smartphones but also means that the state will bear the cost of graduation, post graduation and diploma of the enrolled students,” an official said.
The official added that the smartphones are being provided to help students gain better knowledge. “Infosys has provided a special platform ‘Springboard’ for these mobile phones under its CSR project and students can get free access to over 3,500 courses and programmes. The cost of each smartphone will be Rs 9,972,” he added.
The move, however, did not go down well with the Samajwadi Party (SP) which called it the politics of freebies. The party also said there were several youth-oriented issues that were waiting to be addressed.
“Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls, it is just another attempt to woo youths and divert their attention from other issues. But I believe this freebie politics won’t make much difference as there are grave issues like unemployment, privatisation that are waiting to be addressed. Youths don’t want smartphones, they want jobs. Hence, I believe that distribution of smartphones will be too less to lure the youths and this has been already proved in the recent Ghosi by-elections,” said Udaiveer Singh, senior SP leader.
Recently, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had accused BJP of using welfare schemes to securing its vote bank.