THE Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) on Wednesday approved the grant of one-time cash assistance of Rs 48 billion to four million poorest people under which the eligible people would receive one-time emergency cash assistance of Rs12,000 per beneficiary on a ‘first-come first-served basis’.
The meeting, however, did not approve two other proposals regarding continuation of sale of subsidized food items through the network of Utility Stores Corporation (USC) and a bail-out package for Pakistan Railways to clear dues of retired employees.
Ehsaas Emergency Cash program was launched by the Prime Minister in April 2020 in the context of the economic hardship experienced by the vulnerable segments of the society due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The financial assistance under the program was meant to help them buy rations so that they don’t go hungry.
It is widely believed that the programme saved more than 15 million families from starvation during testing times.
Though the Coronavirus situation has eased, the poor definitely need continued protection because of unprecedented price-hike and squeezing of family incomes due to a variety of reasons and factors.
We have been pointing out in these columns that one-time assistance is no solution to the hardships being faced by the general public but even then a grant of Rs 12,000 would mean much for the poorest of the poor especially widows and those who have no bread-earner.
It is also a fact that the procedure adopted for identification of the eligible families/persons was highly flawed as the BISP mainly relied on data of NADRA, which was not up-to-date in case of countless families.
Employment and financial conditions of people keep on changing and that is why thousands of people who were otherwise eligible for assistance were kept out while those who did not qualify for aid received the money.
Provision of five food items on subsidized rates through the USC also served as a sort of relief for the layman but regrettably the ECC rejected the summary for provision of just Rs 5.54 billion for the purpose.
Again, prompt payment of pension dues to the retired employees was a legal right but the Government has adopted a highly discriminatory attitude towards pensioners, which amounts to neglecting the plight of old and vulnerable.