ISLAMABAD: As Ehsaas — an umbrella of 20 programmes of social safety and welfare — has completed a fresh poverty survey for 2021 in the country, the number of Benazir Income Support Programme beneficiaries has increased to 8.2 million.
The first BISP survey that was completed in 2011 had 23 variables to ascertain the deserving people but the fresh one under its new name Ehsaas Kafalat Programme (EKP) has 43 variables covering wider range of aspects related to the less privileged segments of society.
According to the 2011 survey, there were 4.8m people registered with the BISP in addition to those 800,000 beneficiaries including government employees whose names were removed from the list in December 2019 for being “ineligible”.
As per the 2021 data based on the fresh survey, 3.4m people have been added to the list of beneficiaries.
Speaking to Dawn on Sunday, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said: “We have completed the first-ever digital survey/data of Ehsaas Kafalat (BISP) after a two-year hectic countrywide exercise in which hundreds of trained volunteers accompanied by Ehsaas programme’s staff having laptops in their hands went door to door to accomplish the job.”
Sania says Kafalat’s digital survey has been completed after a two-year exercise
Dr Nishtar said the last BISP survey had been conducted through some non-governmental organisations, but this time Ehsaas staff themselves carried it out with the help of trained volunteers mostly comprising teachers. “It is the first-ever digital poverty survey in the country for which 20,000 laptops were purchased for survey teams. Once the survey of a specific area was completed, these laptops were sent to other places for the same purpose,” she said, adding that the survey was verified by a third-party audit.
She disclosed that after conducting the survey, her ministry was establishing facilitation desks in all districts so that those missed out during the survey for genuine reasons could get themselves registered. “So far we have established 350 desks. It was our plan to set these desks in all districts after Ashura,” she added.
Dr Nishtar said the survey would prove to be the backbone for the provision of monetary assistance under 20 different schemes of the government’s ambitious Ehsaas programme to the deserving people whose eligibility was verified under a mechanism.
With an increase in the number of beneficiaries, the government also enhanced the fund for the programme to Rs250 billion. “It was Rs116bn in 2018-19, Rs196bn in 2019-20 and Rs250bn at present,” she said.
The PM’s aide said those added to the list of beneficiaries were eligible for different programmes such as Ehsaas Waseela-i-Taleem, Ehsaas Kafalat, Ehsaas Amdan, Ehsaas Nashonuma, Ehsaas interest-free loans, Ehsaas Langar, Ehsaas scholarship, Ehsaas emergency cash, Ehsaas Covid-19 fund, Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye, Ehsaas One-Window, Ehsaas Agriculture Loans, Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas, and Rehriban schemes.
Under the scholarship programme, she explained, female students were given more share as they got Rs2,000 stipend per month while boys received Rs1,500. She said 1.3m beneficiaries had already been registered for the interest-free loans package.
Similarly, she said, 31 Langar Khanas (free meal stalls) under Ehsaas Langar had been established. They were being run with the assistance of Saylani Welfare Trust, she added. She said targeted subsidy was also being given to deserving people in all the 4,000 outlets of the utility stores corporation across the country through their biometric. “This time we are also expanding the programme to include middle class of the society,” she added.
Explaining the Rehriban programme, the PM’s aide said 20 carts were provided to the deserving persons in Islamabad as a pilot project, which would be replicated in other parts of the country.
Explaining the procedure of data collection for digital poverty survey, Dr Nishtar said the surveyors visited residences and after collecting the relevant data transferred it to the Ehsaas headquarters, which then rechecked the details before a third-party audit to ensure transparency and remove errors.
Two years ago, she said, her ministry had removed over 800,000 fake and ineligible beneficiaries from BISP data including 140,000 government officials in good faith. However, the audit department asked why money given to the officials had not been recovered, she said before explaining that it was the responsibility of other departments such as the Federal Investigation Agency to do so.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2021