LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht announced on Monday that the Rs2 billion South Punjab Poverty Alleviation Programme would be introduced in Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, DG Khan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Layyah, Bhakkar, Khushab and Mianwali in the financial year 2020-21.
The plan aims at alleviating poverty and generating jobs.
Also WINGS (Women Income Generation and Self Reliance) programme will be carried out in Vehari, Chiniot, Sargodha, Pakpattan, Khanewal, Okara, Multan, Sheikhupura, and Rawalpindi. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government estimates that around 292,000 individuals will be helped through the WINGS, funded by the Department for International Development.
Besides this, establishment of Violence against Women Centres in Lahore and Rawalpindi gets Rs19 million, the Masawaat Program for Transgenders Rs200 million, the Nai Zindagi Program (medical & psychological rehabilitation of acid attack victims) Rs200 million, the Sarparast Program (for widows & orphans) Rs1.5 billion and the Zevar-e-Taleem Program (for school going poor girls) Rs5 billion.
From the total budget of Rs7.1 billion, non-development budget is Rs5.4 billion.
In population welfare, Rs1.01 billion will be spent on the expansion of family welfare centers, and introduction of community based family planning workers, Rs50 million on the Punjab Population Innovation Fund, Rs50 million on the involvement of Imams and Khateebs to promote family planning, Rs53 million on franchising of clinical services, and Rs102 million for provision of funds for Punjab Day Care Funds.
PTI MPA Sania Kamran, who has only recently taken oath as MPA replacing Shaheen Raza who passed away due to Covid-19 issues, says that the overall budget has come at a very difficult time, and yet has attempted to give relief to the public. “In these times also our department of Women Development has been working hard, and so do our women in the assemblies and standing committees,” she said.
The Women Development Department has been allotted Rs400 million in the budget.
There is also a big gap between budgets for South Punjab (35%) compared to 65% of Northern Punjab. This comes under focus since South Punjab has higher rates of poverty and the women there are especially downtrodden under socio-economic circumstances.
Other initiatives taken include construction of women university in Sialkot, Phase 3 of the IRMNCH (integrated reproductive newborn and child health) and establishment of a government women’s college in Layyah, and other such steps.
Whether women have been allotted enough from the main Punjab budget remains to be seen.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2020