RAWALPINDI, Dec 10: UPS, the uninterrupted power supply unit, is the next handout that bright students of Punjab are going to get from their government in its campaign to recognise and reward young talent in the province.
These will not be ordinary kind of UPS but solar-powered devices, costing Rs20,000 a piece, according to local government sources in the city.
“Experts of the provincial government will install the devices in the houses of chosen students of 9th and 10th class of government schools in the district of Rawalpindi,” District Coordination Officer Saqib Zafar told Dawn.
With no end to the power crisis in the country, UPS looked a good and logical choice to help the gifted students given laptops in the past. But the scheme is meant for high school students who have scored 55 per cent marks in their annual examinations.
Data of such students has already been collected from government schools across the Punjab province, numbering about 200,000 in all.
Of them 5,435 students belong to Rawalpindi district whose houses the UPS will light up during power shutdowns for a cost of Rs108 million to the Punjab government.
Interestingly, girls outnumbered boys on the list of bright students of Rawalpindi. 3,468 girls met the 55 per cent criteria compared with 1,967 boys.
When pointed out that Rawalpindi city now has steady power supply, DCO Saqib Zafar said the Punjab government wanted “to provide the schoolchildren an environment for study fearing electricity loadshedding in the coming days”.
Political opponents and professionals, however, see the UPS scheme as an exercise by the ruling PML-N to win popular support with eyes on the forthcoming general elections in the country. “The move will not reduce consumption of electricity and the schools will remain dark as ever,” said one critic.
It will not boost the solar energy devices’ local industry in the province as the government will import such devices in bulk, said Muzamil Aslam, the managing director at Emerging Economics Research. The import of the devices would hurt the nascent local solar power industry.
“Ill-conceived populist schemes in the run-up to elections would not be proper use of taxpayers’ money and can have a knockdown effect on the national economy,” he said talking to Dawn.
Economist Aslam also dismissed the Green Tractor scheme of the Punjab government as ‘made in haste'. While government provided subsidy to farmers to buy the ‘green tractors’, he said there had been reports that some sold them in the market for cash.
Former caretaker finance minister Dr Salman Shah on the other hand praised “the good move” of the provincial government to give solar energy UPS to students. “It will promote solar energy as an alternate to costly electricity in the country. Wait to see the result of this experiment,” he told Dawn.
On the political front, the move attracted criticism from the opponents of PML-N as usual. “It is nothing more than a stunt to gain popularity. PML-N Punjab government has launched its election campaign with taxpayers’ money,” said PPP Rawalpindi President Aamir Fida Paracha.
He alleged that the party was using Punjab government resources for its election campaign instead of spending it on solving “the real problems of the people”.