RAJA JAVED ALI BHATTI
PM Imran Khan’s initiatives to deal with COVID-19 are being appreciated across the globe. Even countries like US with much better health care system are seeking Pakistan’s guidance in providing essential goods to the poor. Due to compassion of PM Imran Khan and trust of people, donations are pouring in Ehsaas Programme though telethons arranged by PM for this noble cause to provide assistance to the needy and poor across the country. According to a document of the Finance Division, the government would provide Rs144 billion under the package and that money would be in addition to already allocated funds for the government’s programme for the poor, called Ehsaas.
The prime minister has also announced Rs200 billion for daily wage workers and it is expected that the amount may also be distributed through provinces. However, the strategy for the disbursement of that amount is still being devised.
Top officials of the government running Ehsaas programme had proposed to the government to announce Rs4,000 per month for the poor people badly affected by the deadly viral disease, but the ministry of finance disagreed and decided to provide a monthly stipend of Rs3000. Ehsaas officials decided to give the amount of Rs12,000 in lump sum to the eligible and deserving people.
Due to mismanagement and corruption made by previous Govts; there was a trust deficit with the Govt but due to current reforms and effective management of economy during pandemic, IK Govt has regained the trust of people of Pakistan inland and abroad. Pakistan on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion rupee economic package to provide relief to citizens, particularly low-income groups whose livelihood has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The package worth 900 billion rupees ($5.66 billion) was approved in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and also attended by army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The move followed a countrywide lockdown that has forced millions to stay indoors, and left hundreds of thousands of laborers and daily wage workers bereft of income.
It includes 200 billion rupees ($1.25 billion) for low-income groups, particularly laborers, 280 billion rupees ($1.76 billion) for wheat procurement, apart from a significant reduction in petroleum prices.
Speaking to journalists in the capital Islamabad, Khan said over 5 million people will be provided a monthly stipend of 3,000 rupees ($20) for the next four months.
He said people will also be able to pay electricity and gas bills below a certain amount in installments.
Also, loan interest payments for exporters had been deferred temporarily, while a package of 100 billion rupees ($63 million) was provided to support small industries and the agriculture sector, he added. The prime minister had announced Rs1.15 trillion relief package to help the poor and members of low-income group, agriculture, export and industrial sectors amid adverse impact of coronavirus pandemic on the country’s economy.
According to the document, of the total 10 million beneficiaries of the government decision, five million people are those who are already getting the monthly stipend under Ehsaas Kafalat while three million people are those whose monthly income is Rs20,000. The other two million people are daily wage workers and vendors who are at present not registered with the programme, will be covered under the PM’s relief package. when Ehsaas receives lists of eligible applicants from DC offices, they will be put in a filter with the help of National Database Registered Authority (Nadra) to ascertain they fell in the category of eligible applicants under the government stipulated criteria (which says these people should not be government servants or spouses of government servants and they should not have a car and motorbike and no record of having travelled abroad). In the next stage, these applicants’ data would be put in a computer having the bigger data to confirm the veracity of these applicants’ financial status.
Once the applicants are cleared by the Ehsaas assessment mechanism, they will receive an SMS for collection of the money from the designated banks. whole programme would be Short Messaging Service (SMS) based as those already registered with Ehsaas Kafalat would soon get an SMS that they could collect Rs12,000 from two already notified banks — Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and Bank Al-Falah Limited.
She said that those low-income group people not currently enrolled in the Ehsaas Kafalat programme would be asked to send their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers to designated mobile phone numbers through SMS, if they were interested in getting monetary assistance under the PM’s package.
“Their eligibility for this category will be assessed by relaxing the poverty criteria in the database. If someone is not in the database, then those people will be asked to submit their credentials with deputy commissioner office concerned where their financial status will be assessed and names of those declared eligible will be sent to Ehsaas programme for further procedure,” she said.