ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar on Thursday defended the government decision to exclude over 800,000 people from among the beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) after describing them “undeserving” and said that really poor people would be enlisted in the BISP.
She said the decision had been taken in order to ensure transparency and merit.
“These beneficiaries could not fulfil the criteria fixed for getting income support from the social safety net, so they were found to be ineligible for the assistance. A survey conducted 10 years ago identified these beneficiaries whose financial position might have improved during this long period of time. It is also possible that these people had never been truly deserving of the stipend. The screening was done through a forensic analysis,” Ms Nishtar told reporters at a press conference.
While defending the decision, Dr Nishtar — who is also BISP chairperson — said the government had devised special eligibility criteria in which the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) had also been taken on board. According to the new plan, government employees will not be included amongst the beneficiaries. “Government servants of any categories are paid according to their grades so they can never be amongst the country’s poorest,” said Dr Nishtar.
Programme chief believes decision will ensure transparency, merit
Similarly, those who have travelled abroad, possessed cars, paid a PTCL phone bill of more than Rs1,000 over a six-month period or a mobile phone with as much monthly bill cannot be included amongst the beneficiaries, she added.
Apart from this, citizens and their spouses who have paid for Nadra’s executive services will also be ineligible for the BISP assistance.
She said the financial assistance under the BISP had been linked with the rate of inflation. More deserving people will be enlisted for financial assistance. For this purpose, registration centres would also be established in every district of the country to facilitate the deserving people, she added.
The new criteria would be completely free from any kind of discretion or political influence, the BISP chairperson claimed.
APP adds: Dr Nishtar said the decision to remove the names from the BISP list had been taken after the approval of the federal cabinet.
During the criteria review, she said, some aspects were looked into, for example, it was ascertained whether the family of a beneficiary had any motorcycle or car or whether a spouse was a government employee.
According to her, out of the total 820,165 beneficiaries removed from the BISP database, 14,730 were government employees, including employees of Pakistan Railways, Post Office and BISP despite the fact that the facility was not meant for the people working in government departments.
According to the data, she said, 127,826 were those whose spouses were government employees or employees of the above mentioned departments.
She said 153,302 were those who travelled abroad once and 195,364 were those whose spouses travelled abroad once. The number of beneficiaries who travelled abroad more than once stood at 10,476. Similarly, 166,319 spouses travelled abroad more than once.
The BISP removed 692 people from its database because they owned one or more than one vehicle, while 43,746 were removed from the list because their spouses have one or more than one car.
A person who can pay monthly telephone bill of Rs1,000 is not eligible to get monthly stipend from the programme and, therefore, 24,546 people were removed for falling into this category. Similarly, 155,767 persons were excluded from the database as their spouses paid Rs1,000 or more mobile phone bill. For applying for passports via executive centres, 666 beneficiaries were excluded and 580 were removed as their spouses did the same.
A total of 36,970 people were expelled from the list of BISP beneficiaries because three or more than three members of their family paid executive fees for obtaining computerised national identity cards.
To a question, she said that BISP would save about Rs60 billion annually due to exclusion of undeserving beneficiaries from the list.
She said that her department had initiated the action as per the rules and laws against the BISP employees who enlisted themselves in the beneficiaries list.
She said that as per the approval of the cabinet, women living on the Line of Control and having CNIC would be provided financial assistance under Kafalat programme.
The PM’s special assistant said that in future the registration of the deserving people in the beneficiaries list of the BISP would continue.
Registration centers would also be established in every district of the country to facilitate the deserving people for enlisting them in the BISP list, she added.
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2019