LAHORE: While the government claims to have disbursed over Rs944m among 77,464 people in Lahore alone under the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme during the last eight days in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown, those seeking financial assistance are facing various problems at the centres set up by the city district administration to distribute the financial assistance.

Moreover, the opposition leaders have criticised the government for getting credit for the programme that, what they claimed, was actually the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) launched by the PPP government during its 2008-2013 tenure.

“Previously, I would comfortably receive financial assistance through the ATM card or from Nadra office at Thokar Niaz Baig. But this time, when I visited the office some days ago to receive Rs12,000, I was asked to go to a centre set up at a school at Nawab Town,” one Allah Rakhi told Dawn on Sunday.

“But when I reached the centre, there were almost 1,200 women gathered to receive money. There was suffocation and I was unwell also and I was unable to wait for many hours. So I returned. And now I plan to go again,” she added while describing her ordeal.

Rs944m so far disbursed among 77,464 people in Lahore

A recent video from a centre established in Lahore for disbursing the financial aid showed several women standing in long queues with no distancing despite the fact the Covid-19 pandemic continues spreading fast in the country.

“We have BISP cards and we are here to receive money at this centre,” a woman was shown as saying. A relative of an applicant waiting outside the centre said, “For the last four hours, we are here (to receive cash) but to no avail”.

According to a senior PPP leader, though the government is trying hard to replace name of the BISP with the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme, it cannot do so since the BISP has a legal cover through an act of the parliament.

“It is the best ever programme introduced by the PPP government that was widely appreciated by the international institutions. In our tenure, the total beneficiaries of the BISP were 7.2m. But later, the successor government reduced the number to 4m and then 2.9m finally,” PPP central leader Chaudhry Manzoor toldDawn. He said it was very easy for a beneficiary to get financial assistance through ATM card/bank.

He claimed that Ehsaas Kafalat Programme has no data as the text messages being received by the government are being verified and scrutinised through the BISP data.

Senator Mushahidullah of the PML-N has critcised the government for continuously telling lies, especially at the time when the country is facing the Covod-19 pandemic.

“You can see all the people getting Rs1,200 are women. And these women are actually the beneficiaries of the BISP and not the PTI government’s Ehsaas Kafalat Programme,” he told this reporter, saying the PML-N, during its last tenure, had substantially increased funds for the BISP.

“But this government continues to take credit of the programmes introduced and successfully implemented by the PML-N and PPP governments. They all are liars,” he says.

According to the city district administration, the government has disbursed Rs944.5m among 77,464 people during the last eight days at 31 centres set up in the metropolis.

“We have made good arrangements at 31 centres and 145 cash counters under Ehsaas Kafalat Programme in Lahore,” Lahore Deputy Commissioner Danish Afzaal said in a press release on Sunday. He said all the centres were also well-equipped to protect the people against the coronavirus.

He said besides this programme, those sending messages to 8171 were also being paid Rs12,000 each. According to a spokesman for the administration, each person takes 2/3 minutes in getting the financial assistance.

“Moreover, all the precautionary measures, including provision of sanitisers and hand wash, social distancing and screening of each beneficiary coming to center are being taken by the administration. The elderly are being treated on a priority basis with due respect. All are being served water and juice at the centres,” he claimed.

PTI leaders Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, Aleem Khan and Hafiz Mumtaz were not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2020

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