THE government has launched an ambitious social welfare and poverty alleviation program ‘Ehsas’ for the poor segments of society.

The plan includes a constitutional amendment to make the provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medic al relief as fundamental rights, establish ministry of poverty alleviation and the economic empowerment of women through ‘one woman, one bank account plan’.

Elaborating the programme, the prime minister has announced that the welfare of transgenders, street children, bonded labour and daily wage earners will be the top priority of the government under this programme.

While on the face of it, it seems an ideal programme and was launched with much fanfare, but there is a possibility that it will hit snags when it comes to its implementation.

While fundamental rights of the citizens are already being violated too frequently in our country, even if the amendment in question is made, will it be possible for the downtrodden people to approach the courts, get involved in lengthy legal processes and get (in)expensive justice?

Secondly, in this persistently resource-stricken country, while funds are always available for all extravagancies, when it comes to the welfare programmes for the poorest of the poor, there has always been a lack of funds.

Thirdly, the establishment of a separate ministry may be a good initiative provided all other poverty alleviation programmes such as Benazir Income Support Programme, Baitul Maal, Poverty Alleviation Council and Zakat Councils are detached from their existing ministries and are clubbed together under the new ministry for better coordination and the provision of improved services. The establishment of a new ministry parallel to the existing poverty alleviation programmes may itself prove a waste of resources.

So, before going ahead with this programme, the government should think hard and make sure it is implemented in a well-coordinated and transparent manner.

Amjad Ali

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2019


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