ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday condemned the Sindh government for not participating in the Rs106.1 billion Ehsaas Ration Programme (ERP) starting from Dec 31 and lamented that people of the province will not avail benefits of the programme aimed at providing relief to 20 million inflation-hit people in the country.
On the other hand, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that Balochistan had agreed to join the programme. Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are already taking part in the programme.
Sixty-five per cent cost of the programme will be borne by the provinces while the Centre will contribute 35pc. Under the programme, a subsidy of Rs1,000 will be given to 20m beneficiaries on purchase of three consumer items — pulses, edible oil/ghee and wheat flour.
“The prime minister strongly condemned stubborn attitude of the Sindh government for not participating in the social welfare programme depriving people of the province of its benefits,” the information minister said.
Centre believes 65pc cost of the plan should be borne by provinces
He said Prime Minister Khan during recent inauguration of the Green Line Bus project in Karachi had asked the Sindh government to bury political differences and join the programme, but the provincial government was bent upon rejecting it. “When people from other parts of the country will get benefit of Ehsaas Ration Programme, people of Sindh will remain deprived of it,” he added.
Mr Chaudhry said earlier Balochistan was reluctant to join the programme but now Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo had assured the Centre that his government would participate in the scheme.
Under the programme, pulses, flour and edible oil/ghee will be available on subsidised rates for the registered persons at Utility Stores, superstores and thousands of designated general/grocery stores across the country. A subsidy of Rs22 will be given on flour, Rs105 on ghee and Rs55 on pulses.
The Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government’s spokesman Saeed Ghani asked why the provincial government would contribute Rs17bn to the programme launched by the federal government.
Talking to Dawn, he said instead of going for a hectic exercise of providing ration subsidy, the Centre should have given additional Rs1,000 to existing beneficiaries of Ehsaas programme. “We don’t have any extra money to contribute our share in the programme,” Mr Ghani said.
When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar, who is supervising the Ehsaas Ration Programme, said the stance of the Sindh government was illogical because if the province had a system to provide relief to the people, it should itself launch such a programme and in that case it would be justified to refuse the Centre.
She said launching the programme, meeting rules and regulations and providing subsidy to the people at their nearby grocery stores was not an easy job.
Regarding Saeed Ghani’s suggestion to provide additional Rs1,000 to the beneficiaries of Ehsaas programme, Ms Nishtar said most of the people had demanded subsidy on grocery items, therefore, the ration programme was being launched to provide some relief amid high prices of food items.
“Before approving the ration subsidy programme, the federal government also considered providing additional Rs1,000 to the registered beneficiaries but it rejected the option because the number of registered Ehsaas beneficiaries is 6m and Ehsaas Ration Programme will provide benefit to 20m people,” she added.
Earlier, presiding over a meeting, Prime Minister Khan said the government had introduced the largest ever poverty alleviation and social protection programme in the country’s history.
The meeting reviewed the ongoing welfare, social protection, poverty alleviation and basic health projects.
About health insurance card, the PM said the Naya Pakistan Sehat Card was a unique health insurance facility which was unprecedented in the world.
The meeting was given a briefing on the health card and Ehsaas Ration Programme. It was told that starting from January next year, all families in Punjab would get free medical treatment facilities of up to Rs1m a year.
The participants were also apprised of the progress on the provision of subsidy to the low-income group under Ehsaas Ration Programme.
While briefing on Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye, Langar Khana and Panahgah initiatives, the meeting was told that the projects were providing relief to the daily wagers, particularly during the winter season.
The meeting was also briefed on Kamyab Jawan Programme, Naya Pakistan Housing programme and Sports Drive programme, besides discussing the coming local government elections in Punjab.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the ongoing welfare projects and called for their completion within the stipulated time.
Federal Ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Shafqat Mahmood, Hammad Azhar and Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Senator Saifullah Niazi, MNA Amir Mahmood Kiani, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid attended the meeting.
In a separate meeting, Prime Minister Khan said the regulatory authorities had a pivotal role to play for protection of rights of the people. “The regulators have to protect public interest by ensuring effective monitoring and compliance of the legal and regulatory requirements,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021