Petty increase in BISP stipend

FINANCE Minister Ishaq Dar, on Thursday, announced decision of the Federal Government to increase annual stipend for beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) from Rs 18,800/- to Rs 19,338/-. It has been claimed that the rate has been enhanced as per increase in CPI during last year and after exhaustive consultations with the Prime Minister.
BISP was conceived as one of the means to alleviate poverty and empower the disadvantaged segment of the population ie womenfolk. Initially, Rs 1,000/- per month cash grant was sanctioned for poorest of the poor on the basis of applications and then survey conducted to determine the instance of poverty in the country. Gradually, the amount has been enhanced and credit goes to the present Government for increasing annual allocations of the programme from previously Rs 40 billion to Rs 115 billion besides increase of annual stipend from Rs 12,000/- to now Rs 19,338/-. The programme was launched in July 2008 which means it has completed 08 years but unfortunately its impact is not visible on the ground. Allocation of huge amount of Rs 115/- billion by a cash starved country means much but one fails to understand what objective the programme is fulfilling when there are no indications that the instance of poverty has come down since its launching. It is mainly because of two reasons — negligible amount being handed down to the poor which is not enough to buy even the basic food item, i.e. wheat flour for a month for a family of six and inability of the programme to help beneficiaries stand on their own feet. A number of schemes were launched during PPP era under the umbrella of BISP to enable beneficiaries to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty but political interference and corruption denied the intended benefits. In view of the price-hike and unemployment, the Government ought to conduct fresh survey to identify deserving BISP beneficiaries and increase the stipend at least equal to minimum wages. Annual increase of Rs 538/- or less than Rs. 45/- a month is a cruel joke with the poor.

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