It's not just students who would flash their low-cost PC tablets. Six months from now, villages across the country will scale up and monitor development work, primarily the corruption-ridden Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), with hi-tech handheld PC tablets.
The rural development ministry plans to give away 6.04 lakh handhelds, which it is currently procuring for socio-economic caste census work, to all village panchayats in the country free of cost, once the exercise is over. The below poverty line and caste census, which started in July this year, will end in January 2012.
“Once the census is completed, the handhelds will be given to gram panchayats so that they can use them in electronic tabulation of works like MNREGA,” a senior ministry official told HT.
The HRD ministry had last week unveiled a $50 PC handheld, which it plans to give to school and college students at a discounted price of Rs 1,400.
The open source Android-enabled handheld developed for the below poverty line-caste census costs Rs 4,000, and is made by Bharat Electronics.
The cost of the 6.04 lakh equipment is R300 crore. The total budget for the first ever caste census being done along with below poverty line census is Rs 3,500 crore, as approved by the cabinet.
On an average, each panchayat will get two handhelds. Officials say data such as quantum of work, muster rolls and bank payments for MNREGA can be entered instantly on the field, which will help check corrupt practices like 'ghost workers' and tampering of data.
The SECC is completed in Puducherry and is underway in Chattisgarh, Tripura and Chandigarh.
The exercise will soon start in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra, and more states will follow, officials said.