ISLAMABAD: Realising the pace at which inflation has been rising in the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced that the government would initiate a revolutionary programme of direct subsidy to 30 million families — around half of the country’s population — from June to enable them to get essential food items.
The prime minister made the announcement while addressing a ceremony held to launch the ‘Koi Bhuka Na Soye’ (No one goes to bed hungry) programme, under which the poor and labour classes will be provided free meal boxes twice a day through mobile trucks at various points of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Under the programme, he said, a concept of mobile kitchens (kitchens on trucks) had been introduced which would be plied all over the country to provide free meal to the needy and hungry people.
“Koi Bhuka Na Soye programme is the beginning of Pakistan’s transformation into a welfare state,” the prime minister said at the launching ceremony during his visit to an Ehsaas Langar Khana in the federal capital.
Launches ‘Koi Bhuka Na Soye’ programme for poor, labourers
PM Khan said that through the subsidy programme, to be carried out under the umbrella of Ehsaas, amounts would be directly credited to the accounts of poor people, enabling them to buy basic items like wheat flour, sugar, ghee, pulses, etc.
He said the government would launch a similar programme for farmers to help them get fertiliser and other agricultural inputs on subsidised rates.
The prime minister said that with 70 per cent of work already completed on the direct subsidy programme, progress on the remaining 30pc was under way.
He appreciated Ehsaas and Baitul Mal teams for the successful launch of the programme and said the provision of free meal would help the poor, deserving, labourers and daily-wagers save their hard-earned money to fulfil the needs of their children and families.
The prime minister directed the officials concerned to particularly take care of the self-respect of poor people benefiting from the government-sponsored facilities of Panahgahs (shelter homes), Langars (free meals) and Kio Bhuka Na Soye. He said the mobile trucks or vans carrying food should especially visit the localities of the poor and labourers to ensure that free meals reached the deserving people.
Mr Khan said the programme was initially being launched in Rawalpindi and Islamabad so that the government could learn about the issues and problems and improve the programme before its extension to other cities. He said it was his dream to extend the ‘Koi Bhuka Na Soye’ programme to the whole country and “Insha Allah we will do it”.
Mr Khan said a large number of philanthropists in the country desired to participate in such programmes and he believed that the success of pilot project in the twin cities would help win their trust in contributing to its extension across Pakistan. He also mentioned with pride his government’s health card scheme in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, under which each family is entitled to medical treatment worth Rs1 million from any public or private hospital.
The prime minister, during a briefing on the occasion, was informed that after extensive deliberations on different avenues, Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM) had initiated a ‘Meals on Wheels’ programme to tackle the extended demands of Panahgahs.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar said the programme was aimed at providing hygienic packed food twice a day — lunch and dinner — to the needy individuals through real time mobile kitchens in urban and rural areas of Islamabad. The project would be later scaled up to other areas of the country.
PBM Managing Director Aon Abbas said that at present two Ehsaas food trucks were serving free quality cooked food at various points in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, including hospitals, bus stations and public places with utmost dignity.
As per estimates, each food truck will feed two meals to around 2,000 people daily and will target those who cannot reach Panahgahs for food.
To make the programme more financially stable, the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division had constituted a ‘Donor Coordination Group’ which will serve as an Ehsaas channel to engage with the private sector. Pledges and commitments by the private sector, international agencies, philanthropists, civil society and individuals will be overseen by the coordination group.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2021