SKY Has No Limit:

Ch­hat­tis­garh's SKY, one of the big­gest schemes launched by any State gov­ern­ment, promises to her­ald a new era in the State's so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

India Business Journal - - CONTENTS - IBJ BUREAU

Ch­hat­tis­garh's SKY, one of the big­gest schemes launched by any State gov­ern­ment, promises to her­ald a new era in the State's so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

It is one of the most am­bi­tious projects taken up by any State gov­ern­ment so far in the coun­try. And the launch cer­e­mony for the scheme was aptly presided over by none other than Pres­i­dent Ram Nath Kovind. The first cit­i­zen of In­dia launched Ch­hat­tis­garh Chief Min­is­ter Dr Ra­man Singh's brain­child San­char Kranti Yo­jana - pop­u­larly known as SKY - on July 26, 2018 in the tribal heart­land of Bas­tar by dis­tribut­ing smart­phones to two women ben­e­fi­cia­ries from Na­tional Ru­ral and Ur­ban Liveli­hood Mis­sion and a col­lege stu­dent un­der the scheme.

The cer­e­mony was fol­lowed by an­other glit­ter­ing event in Raipur a few days later, wherein Dr Singh held the Mo­bile Ti­har (a mo­bile fes­ti­val) in the State's cap­i­tal city and handed over smart­phones to seven women. The cer­e­mony was a part of the SKY to be­gin dis­tri­bu­tion of 50 lakh smart­phones among women and stu­dents in re­mote parts of the State. The chief min­is­ter also ded­i­cated to the State 556 mo­bile tow­ers that have been set up to en­hance con­nec­tiv­ity with in­creas­ing num­ber of users.

How did th­ese ben­e­fi­cia­ries feel when they re­ceived a smart­phone for the first time? This ques­tion is not im­por­tant just be­cause they got a smart­phone from the Pres­i­dent of In­dia or the Chief Min­is­ter of Ch­hat­tis­grah. If they had not got the smart­phone then, they would have had to wait un­til 2035 to get one, go­ing by the cur­rent growth rate of mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion in ru­ral In­dia.

Ac­cord­ing to tele­com reg­u­la­tor TRAI's fig­ures, in 2001, tele­den­sity of the coun­try's ur­ban ar­eas was only 10.4 per cent and only 1.5 per cent for ru­ral ar­eas. In 2015, tele­den­sity of cities in­creased by 151 per cent, but the pace of growth in ru­ral ar­eas was a mere 51 per cent. If growth con­tin­ued at this pace, then 100 per cent of tele­den­sity in In­dia would have had to wait un­til 2035.

Spread­ing tele­den­sity

Since it was formed in early 2000, Ch­hat­tis­garh has made eco­nomic progress by leaps and bounds. It is one of In­dia's few en­ergy-sur­plus States and con­trib­utes 15 per cent to the coun­try's steel pro­duc­tion. The State's growth story em­braces the cre­ation of first green­field cap­i­tal city of the 21st cen­tury in the coun­try - Naya Raipur, fo­cus on ICT econ­omy and pres­ence of prom­i­nent public and pri­vate tele­com play­ers. It has im­ple­mented a PDS model that has served as a role model for States across the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to a CRISIL re­port pub­lished in De­cem­ber 2017, Ch­hat­tis­garh was the fourth, fastest­grow­ing State in In­dia be­tween FY13 and FY17.

How­ever, de­spite a steady stride to­wards de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban­i­sa­tion, the pos­i­tive so­cio-eco­nomic im­pact is not dis­trib­uted ho­mo­ge­neously through­out the en­tire State, es­pe­cially with a higher per­cent­age of ru­ral pop­u­la­tion of over 76 per cent. Statis­tics of the so­cio-eco­nomic-caste cen­sus of 2011 re­veals that on an av­er­age, 72 per cent of house­holds in In­dia use mo­bile phones, while that num­ber is a mea­gre 29 per cent in Ch­hat­tis­garh. Of this, only 10 per cent of peo­ple have smart­phones. Ur­ban tele­den­sity is 125 per cent in Ch­hat­tis­garh, while it is only 37 per cent in ru­ral ar­eas. This poor con­nec­tiv­ity is at­trib­ut­able largely to some unique re­al­i­ties in Ch­hat­tis­garh re­lat­ing to poor af­ford­abil­ity of peo­ple and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity for op­er­a­tors.

With Aad­haar en­rol­ment at 93 per cent and bank ac­count open­ings at nearly 100 per cent, mo­bile is cur­rently the miss­ing link in the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aad­haar, Mo­bile) trin­ity. Also, the State is un­able to make much head­way in di­rect ben­e­fit trans­fers (DBT) be­cause of its low mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion.

So, the ques­tion was that should the State have waited for 2035? Chief Min­is­ter Dr Ra­man Singh chose an-

"In­stal­la­tion of mo­bile tow­ers in re­mote ar­eas un­der the SKY has the ca­pac­ity to re­duce dis­tance be­tween Ben­galuru and Bas­tar so far as con­nec­tiv­ity is con­cerned."

RAM NATH KOVIND

Pres­i­dent of In­dia

With ma­jor­ity of ben­e­fi­cia­ries of SKY be­ing women, the scheme fo­cuses on gen­der em­pow­er­ment.

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