This election season, first-time voters are emerging as a segment political parties can’t ignore. Out of the 16.7 million voters in Chhattisgarh, around 3.1 million will exercise their voting rights for the first time in the upcoming assembly elections.
The state government’s ‘Yuva Suchna Kranti Yojana’, a scheme to distribute free laptops and tablets to students pursuing further studies and research, began this year. The scheme has been interpreted by political pundits as a sign the ruling party is trying to woo first-time voters.
What the state government might have not expected is its freebies are instead being put up on classifieds websites for sale. OLX.in, where sellers can freely advertise their merchandise and the price is negotiated between interested parties, has seen a number of government-distributed laptops appearing for sale on its listing pages.
Officials are understandably upset. “We have given the ownership rights to the students, but if they misuse it, what can the state do,” said an officer of principal secretary rank, not willing to be identified.
The plan was also to enhance internet penetration in the state. “Only 57,000 families are internet-enabled (2011 census). These laptops and tablets were meant to facilitate academic achievement”, said chief executive officer A M Parial, of the Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion Society, the state agency for propelling IT growth.
The Chhattisgarh government took the initiative to distribute 100,000 tablets and 20,000 laptops to students.
Tablets to be given to final year graduates of any discipline while the laptops are meant only for the final-year students in the medical and engineering streams. The laptops, which are cloud-enabled, can be remotely shut down. “We can kill the machine in the case of theft or loss,” Parial said.
However, as the Urdu adage goes, ‘jab miya biwi razi, to kya karega qazi’. “If the seller and buyer have no issue, we can’t do anything,” said the government official.