ISLAMABAD: The Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Sania Nishtar, said on Saturday that while the government had been adopting austerity measures and budgetary allocations of several divisions were being reduced, Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to double the ‘social security and poverty alleviation budget’.
Speaking at a press conference, she said that it had been decided in principle that Insaf Cards (health cards) would be issued to people living with disabilities and white canes, wheelchairs, hearing aids, artificial limbs and other equipment would be provided to them free of cost.
Dr Nishtar claimed that 2.5 per cent of the country’s population was facing some kind of disability. That was why the government had approved 2pc job quota for them and 1pc quota in the government’s housing scheme, she added.
“It means that around five million persons, across the country, are disabled. Majority of them are visually impaired so it has been decided that all such persons would be registered and issued certificates,” she said.
Dr Nishtar, who is also chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme but never mentioned the programme throughout her press conference, said that the prime minister had launched the Ehsaas programme on March 27 to address the issues of poor people.
“Every month interest-free loans would be provided to 80,000 persons to enable them to start their businesses. Scholarships will be introduced for undergraduate students and stipends will be provided to 6m women on quarterly basis,” she said.
While discussing the issues of poorest of the poor, she said that it had been decided that a proper contract of farmers with the owners of the land the former tilled would be ensured.
“In his first speech as the prime minister, Imran Khan had discussed the issue of stunted children. We have decided to introduce ‘ration cards’ due to which not only food would be provided to deserving people but proper nutrition would be given to children,” she said.
To assist elderly pensioners, Dr Nishtar said, the monthly pension of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution had been raised from Rs 5,200 to Rs 6,500. She said that the Ehsaas programme had a special focus on labourers and it would bring them into the fold of social protection.
“We have also decided to support people who are doing seasonal jobs and a labour expert group has been created to prepare a strategy for them,” she said.
Meanwhile, Zulqurnain Asghar, chief executive of the Potohar Mental Health Association, an NGO, said that it was not correct that only 2.5pc of Pakistani population was disabled.
“It is necessary that government functionaries and legislators quote accurate data so that they can plan programmes according to the needs of persons living with disabilities. There is an urgent need for passing a comprehensive, democratic, inclusive and rights-based law to ensure well being of persons living with disabilities,” Mr Asghar, who is visually impaired, said.
However, Dr Nishtar said that though there were different figures on special persons in Pakistan but considering the 2017 census it had been determined that such people comprised 2.5pc of the country’s population.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2019