Chandigarh: In a bid to lure young blood, Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday said the party will give 50 lakh smart phones with one year of free data and calling to the youth in the state, to empower them and connect them digitally, once it comes to power.
Singh made this announcement while launching the scheme — 'Captain Smart Connect' — in presence of thousands of youths from across the state in Chandigarh.
He promised the youth that those who registered themselves for the smart phones would get them within 100 days of the formation of the Congress government in the state.
The scheme promises an overall distribution of 50 lakh smartphones over a period of five years.
Within minutes of the launch of the scheme, for which Singh had invited the youth via Twitter, several thousand registered on captainsmartconnect.com — a website set up exclusively for the purpose.
The last date for registering on the website — the only platform for registration under the scheme — is 30 November, 2016.
Amarinder's Facebook profile, which went live with the event, recorded 1,200 likes and 8,200 views in the first one hour of the launch, a party release said.
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president said the scheme will cost about Rs 300-400 crore a year after the initial investment in the first year.
Allocation will be made in the state budget itself to fund the scheme, as part of the youth welfare programme of his government, once he takes over the reigns of the state, he added.
Explaining the rationale behind the scheme, Amarinder said even though one-third of Punjab's population comprised of youth in the 18-35 age group, this section remained backward.
Large-scale unemployment is pushing the youth to drugs and other problems, making it important for the government to connect with them, he said.
He said the initiative would enable him to build the bridges with the youth and provide them with the necessary opportunity for growth by empowering them digitally.
Responding to a question, he said the early launch of the scheme would ensure that no time is wasted in its implementation, once Congress forms the government after the Assembly polls.
The scheme is applicable to youths who are residents of Punjab and are in the age group of 18-35 years. He/she should be 10th pass, with annual household income less than Rs 6 lakh, to be eligible for registration.
Youths registering on the website will receive receipts with unique codes, which will entitle them to receive the 4G enabled smartphone of set specifications — the best in the market at the time of disbursement.
At 13.5 percent, Punjab has the country's highest unemployment rate in the age group of 15 to 29 years, said Amarinder.