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Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday launched Ehsaas Kafaalat Programme for 7 million poor women and stated that it is a step towards turning the country into a welfare state.

Speaking at the launching ceremony after distributing Kifaalat Ehsaas Cards among a few families, the Prime Minister stated, "We have not been able to achieve development because we have not taken care of the poor. No country in the world can achieve development where wealth is in a few hands of the elite and while masses live in abject poverty."

The premier said that chairperson BISP has been able to develop a transparent system of cash transfer despite a lot of pressure from the government and federal cabinet as the government wanted to launch the programme to transfer the allocated Rs 200 billion to the poor households. He said that developing a transparent system is necessary to ensure that money reaches the deserving households.

The Prime Minister added that the system developed by Dr Sania Nishtar led to exclusion of 0.8 million undeserving beneficiaries including government employees enrolled in the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). He added that opening of bank accounts is very essential for the poor women because this would enable them to become entitled to purchase items from Utility Store Corporation (USC) outlets at subsidized rates.

The Prime Minister said that the government would launch other initiatives of Ehsaas program in two weeks, including a cattle programme for women and a scholarship programme for the poor students, adding the sole purpose of all these programs is to make the country a welfare state.

He said the government has distributed health cards to six million families, saying this is the biggest achievement of his government and the number of health cards is being increased to provide medical facility of Rs 720,000 to each family.

The Prime Minister said he is fully aware how ailment can push a family below the poverty line if one cannot afford treatment. "We are providing skilled training to 0.5 million youth as well as launching a merit-based youth loan scheme for those who want to initiate their business," added the Prime Minister.

Earlier, Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar gave an overview of the Kafaalat programme, explaining why the need was felt to bring about reforms in the BISP cash transfers.

She said identifying the deserving persons was a big task as the data of BISP beneficiaries was ten years old. She said the government used NADRA record and surveys to identify the persons who really deserve help, so that unscrupulous elements do not take advantage of the scheme. She said process of desk registration of deserving persons has been started at the tehsil level.

She said that agreements have now been made with two banks to open biometric ATMs to facilitate the receiving of money under the Ehsaas Kafaalat programme.

Nishtar added that every recipient woman will have a saving bank account. She said smart phones will be provided to the recipients in order to facilitate them on financial transactions and to give them access to other useful projects under Ehsaas initiatives.

She said 700,000 households are being brought into the fold of Kafaalat, which also includes 400,000 households of Benazir Income Support Program. Kafaalat has been opened in seventy districts across the country while schedule of the remaining districts will be issued soon.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020