ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Ehsaas Cash Relief Programme for poor people and daily wage earners, who are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of the pandemic the most, is going on smoothly and over 1.7 million families have so far benefited in different parts of the country.
“So far 1,774,000 poor and eligible families have received Rs12,000 cash each as four-month stipend under the programme,” Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said in a media briefing on Sunday.
She said Rs22.46 billion had been distributed among the families from different branches of two designated banks and distribution camps were being established across the country.
Low-risk industries to open tomorrow
Dr Nishtar said the programme was based on Short Messaging Service (SMS) as eligible persons received SMS telling them from which cash point and on which date they could get their stipend. “People who are employed somewhere and are getting their salaries should not apply for this facility as it is meant only for daily wage earners who have lost their livelihoods due to lockdown,” the SAPM said.
She warned that strict action would be taken unscrupulous officials if anyone was found involved in deducting amounts from the stipend. “Transparency and merit is being ensured in processing the applications and people should visit cash points only after they are advised to do so,” she added.
The Ehsaas Cash Distribution Programme was formally launched by the PM on Thursday for the less privileged to mitigate their suffering during the coronavirus crisis. A total of 12 million families will benefit under the programme which will be completed in three to four weeks.
According to Dr Nishtar, 673,948 beneficiaries had obtained cash from different branches of the two designated banks during the first two days of the campaign.
Under Rs144bn PM’s Ehsaas Relief Programme, an amount of Rs50bn has so far been given to the banks for distribution among the needy.
The stipend is being provided through 17,000 branches of Habib Bank Limited and Bank Al-Falah and 3,000 camps with multiple booths are being established with the assistance of the provincial governments.
The federal government has planned to complete the cash distribution process in two-and-a-half weeks but the process may prolong because it depends till what time people will draw cash from the banks.
Staggered mode of payment has been adopted to avoid crowds outside the banks and other distribution points.
The government is considering to extend the countrywide lockdown to prevent spread of deadly coronavirus, but some low-risk industries will be allowed to open from Tuesday (tomorrow) with the condition that they will follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) being devised for them.
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the situation before formally taking the decision whether to ease the restrictions or extend the lockdown at a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting on Monday (today).
“The meeting, which was attended by senior cabinet members and chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through a video link, discussed how to open low- and moderate-risk industries [as per guidance of the World Health Organisation] so that the wheel of economy starts running,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who also participated in the meeting, told Dawn.
He said the WHO had issued a list of high-, moderate- and low-risk industries and the government had decided to allow low-risk industries, including the construction industry, to open from April 14.
He said SOPs were being devised for the industries to be opened to enable them to ensure prevention of the viral disease from spreading among their employees.
The meeting was apprised that the impact of Covid-19 was low in Pakistan as compared to other countries, particularly European states. “So far 88 people have died of the disease, and 14 of them who had contracted the virus three weeks ago during the last 24 hours,” the SAPM said.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020