FAISALABAD: Women sit on ground prior to getting financial assistance. — Dawn
FAISALABAD: Women sit on ground prior to getting financial assistance. — Dawn

FAISALABAD: Dozens of poor women, had to sit on ground under the open sky on Thursday at Ghulam Muhammadabad centre while waiting for their turn to get financial assistance announced by the government under its Ehsas programme to provide them relief during the lockdown.

As many as 18 distribution centres have been set up across the district to provide financial assistance to women by the government. Of these, nine centres have been set up in the city and Saddar areas, three in Jaranwala and two each in Tandlianwala, Chak Jhumra and Samundri for distribution of relief amount among the 67,629 people registered for the package.

They would be handed over the promised amount of Rs12,000 turn by turn within a couple of days. The cash disbursement exercises is conducted from 8am to 6pm.

Those visiting the Ghulam Muhammadabad centre complained that the district administration neither arranged any tent nor drinking water or chairs for them. They regretted that they had to wait for hours at the centre for their turn under the open sky.

They said the officials at the centre had drawn circles on the ground, to ensure social distancing, where the visitors were asked to wait for their turn for hours.

They asked if the administration could arrange thousands of chairs and air-conditioned tents for political gatherings and other events held for ministers and other VVIPs, why the poor were not offered basic facilities like wooden chairs and drinking water at the centre.

They said administration could have easily arranged chairs for the visitors, including old women, as ample furniture was available for the purpose in schools that had been closed during the lockdown.

Media was not allowed to enter these centres to ensure privacy of the recipients of financial aid. Only the persons registered for the relief package were permitted to cross the barriers placed outside the centres after checking their CNICs.

Nooran Bibi, an old women who visited the Ghulam Muhammadabad centre, severely criticised the district administration for not arranging any chairs and drinking water for the poor who, she said, were already troubled by the weeks-long lockdown.

“When I asked a policeman at the centre why no water, tent or chairs were arranged for the poor people, especially the old, he said go and ask our officers,” she said, adding that after waiting for four hours for her turn, she had been told by the officials to visit the centre again on Friday (today) to get the money.

Ahmed Ali, who was accompanying another woman, regretted officials apathy towards the poor people, saying they must be taken to task for this negligence. He said only those who were inside the centre’s building were provided some chairs.

Sources said the conditions at other centres set up in the city were better, but those in rural areas had mostly poor arrangements for the visitors.

Meanwhile, police provided the transportation facility to the needy women who wanted to reach these centres and also dropped many of them back at their homes.

City Police Officer Sohail Chaudhry said: “We picked many needy women and men from different points and dropped them at the centres set up across the district”.

He said personnel of Rangers had also been deployed at various points in the district for BISP cash distribution, while army also kept patrolling near the distribution points.

He added that pickets were also erected on entry and exit points of the city to make the lockdown effective, while officers remained in the field under supervision of town SPs to avert any untoward incident.

When asked about the situation, a district administration officer said: “We had been informed about the plan to set up the centres haphazardly and were handed down lists of the places selected by Ehsas programme officials where the cash distribution arrangements were to be made. [Even then] We have done our level best,” he said, adding that the shortcomings would be overcome soon.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020