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ISLAMABAD: The government has allocated Rs200 billion for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division in the budget for 2021-22, which will be fully utilised by providing financial assistance to 22 million families, said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar.

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection was held here on Monday under the chairmanship of Senator Naseebullah Bazai. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar gave a detailed briefing on the work, performance, projects, and future strategy of the ministry. Dr Nishtar, while briefing the committee members regarding Ehsaas programme, said the government has set a target this year to provide financial assistance, and health cards to 10 million people, and about 5 million scholarships.

Dr Nishtar said in the past different social protection agencies used to report to various ministries, which have now been brought under one ministry. The move has yielded very positive results.

In 2019, digital infrastructure system was introduced facilitating people through the use of data analytics and SMS. We established delivery unit to simultaneously evaluate the performance of different programs through dashboards. We developed a uniform governance and executive policy that received formal cabinet approval, she added.

Dr Nishtar said while undertaking fundamental reforms in the Benazir Income Support Programme, its scope is being further expanded and further steps will be taken to maintain its transparency.

Under the Ehsaas Scholarship Programme financial assistance is being provided up to Rs 75,000. Its scope has been extended from 50 districts to 154 districts across the country, she added. Under this programme, girls are given more stipends than boys, keeping in view the development of women.

Under the Ehsaas Panagah and Langar Khana program, anchorages have been set up which provide food to thousands of needy and poor people daily and all this is being run successfully under public-private partnership.

Under the Ehsaas Rehri Ban project, we have provided regular licenses to poor and small pedlars in various sectors of Islamabad to alleviate their financial difficulties.

The program will be extended to more cities.

Dr Nishtar told the committee that progress of the survey is currently at 98 percent, which will be completed by the last week of July.

We have digitised this whole process and created a system based on principles. We are continuing our efforts to eradicate poverty by going beyond politics and prioritising concerns of the common people, she added. Under the program, Sindh was given a share of 31.4 percent as against 22 percent in terms of population.

In some cases, rate of distribution of funds is determined by taking into account the poverty ratio of that particular province.

Dr Nishtar presented details of the ministry's budget for the last three years to the committee. According to which, the budget of Rs247 billion in the year 2019-20 was fully utilised. In the year 2020-21, Rs200 billion was allocated with 100 percent utilisation.

In the year 2021-22, we have got a budget of Rs250 billion, which will be fully spent on various programs for the welfare of the people.

She said that under Free Access to Data policy, we have uploaded all the details on the website. We share real-time data with the provinces to create equal development opportunities in all the units.

In the next year, financial assistance will be provided to 22 million families.

One-Window operations will be launched in all the districts under Ehsaas program. We use Radio Pakistan to deliver important information about Ehsaas program to the public in a timely manner.

Chairman Committee Senator Naseebullah Bazai, while appreciating the work of Dr Nishtar said her dedication for helping the poor is unprecedented and the committee will support her in every way to make people's lives much better.

Senator Aun Abbas said that cochlear implants are important for children with congenital deafness.

The financial assistance provided under this programme should be increased, so that more and more children can benefit from it. We formally recommend through the committee that the scope of this project be further expanded, while increasing its funding, Abbas added.

At this, Dr Nishtar said that she will talk to the PMDC to provide more funds for the programme.

Senator Keshoo Bai said that in remote districts of Sindh and Balochistan, special attention should be paid to the lack of Ehsaas Emergency Cash facility and issues related to health card.

Answering this, Dr Nishtar said that operations are being carried out in many districts under Ehsaas programme and efforts are being made to reach more families in far-flung areas of the country such as Tharparkar. Pakistan Baitul Mal gave a detailed briefing on the work, performance and plans of the department. The committee was informed that Pakistan Baitul Mal is currently providing relief services in 154 districts. Working on various projects related to women empowerment, child protection and financial assistance and protection of the elderly.

Baitul Mal officials told the committee that the efforts of Pakistan Baitul Mal have saved about 100,000 lives, 21,000 scholarships have been awarded in the last five years working with various universities in the field of education.

Senator Aun Abbas directed the officials of the department to increase the number of scholarships for the province of Balochistan and to open Women Empowerment Centers in more districts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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