Relief Delivery: Reinventing the whee


Ashraf Ansar

Coronavirus related shutdowns have caused countrywide layoffs and loss of daily wages for millions of labourers as well as low level self employed poor people. Private sector at a higher pedestal has also received a traumatic shock but it has some sort of inbuilt sustainability. The labourers and daily wagers have no cushion to fall on. They have been trapped in a perilous web. It is the state or society which could provide to them some breathing space on the most urgent basis. Prime Minister Imran has, somewhat promptly, announced relief packages for the hard hit sections of the society, mainly daily wagers. However no definite list of deserving people has been drawn on the basis of earning modes like menial workers, domestic servants or workers being rendered jobless because of lockdowns. But the urgent point is that the deserving people are not getting cash assistance under the relief packages. The problem relates to the delivery mechanism. It seems quite odd that the federal government and the provincial governments have announced separate relief packages. There could have been one pool of packages and one delivery mechanism. Deputy commissioners of the districts may have been given charge of relief delivery in their respective districts at the house-holds or to the people in the Shelter Homes. Thanks to the colonial legacy, the DCs as District Magistrates enjoy power to enlist a large number of government employees of various departments, even in the private sector for any national cause or to meet any emergency. Population censuses are examples. The DCs may also take Red Crescent, Boy Scouts and NGOs on board to utilise their services. When you create some new organisation say ‘Tigers’, you are trying to “reinvent” the wheel! Who does not know that our most departments which are supposed to serve people, are over employed and the employees, by and large, are mostly idle or non-productive. These people need to be engaged in welfare work such as to reach out to the poor and needy with relief. The point is to deliver relief assistance to the needy on the most urgent basis. If we got involved in creating a new corps of volunteers, it would mean undue delay. Already a gapping gap is emerging when it comes to the announcements of Relief Packages and actual delivery. In the current lockdown situation delay is lethal. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been prompt in announcing the Relief Package, he should ensure fast delivery too. Otherwise the relief packages will prove worthless. And the final word: all relief assistance whether government or private must be delivered from a joint pool at district level. Best way to reach out to the needy would be to deliver relief at Mohalla or ward or village basis. The deserving people should not be bothered to undergo the agony of paper or on-line procedures. Most of such people would be unable to fulfil such requirements though our bureaucracy would love to exercise some sort of authority in the name of colonial procedures. Let there be no babuism in dealing with the current critical circumstances

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