Chandigarh, August 12: The Punjab government on Wednesday took a major digital leap forward with the statewide launch of its Rs 92 crore 'Punjab Smart Connect Scheme' by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who handed over smartphones to six Class XII students in a symbolic gesture. Simultaneous distribution of phones was done at 26 places by various Ministers, legislators and others.
Each Minister personally handed over 20 phones in various districts to mark the launch of the scheme, which also marked the fulfilment of a major poll promise of the Congress government in the state.
The scheme, for which Rs 100 crore was allocated in the state budget for 2017-18, will benefit 174,015 Class XII students of government schools in the first phase, to be completed by November.
Of these, 87,395 are boys and 86,620 girls, with a majority in the Other Backward Class, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories -- thus bridging a major divide that was obstructing these students from affordable access to digital education.
The bulk of the students - 111,857 -- are from the rural areas, and the remaining are in urban government schools, a government statement said.
Amarinder Singh, who launched the scheme through video conferencing at the Secretariat here, said people believe in the promises listed in the election manifesto and it was, thus, his duty to ensure the implementation of each one of them.
When the Congress listed smartphones as a poll promise, it was to provide global connectivity and empower the poor youth who could not afford them, said Amarinder Singh, adding that in the present pandemic situation these phones had assumed more importance as they had become a necessity for education continuity.
It was the money of the people of Punjab which his government was spending on advancement of the youth, the Chief Minister said, adding the phones were planned to be distributed in March but the process got delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Chief Minister said he wanted Punjab's students to be abreast with the latest technology which they can use effectively for their education, which leverages technology in a big way today.
Students Arshdeep Kaur, Satinder Kaur, Sukhbir Kaur, Amanjot Singh, Ram Singh and Amanveer Singh from various government senior secondary schools of Mohali district said the smartphones they received would provide them with the much-needed access to online education in these difficult COVID-19 times.
Gagandeep, a girl student and a labourer's daughter from Hoshiarpur, told the Chief Minister on video that though she had got 85 per cent marks in Class XI she had lost out majorly in studies over the past few months due to the lack of a smartphone.
With this phone, she said she would now be able to fulfil her dreams.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 13, 2020 12:02 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).