RAHIM YAR KHAN: Thousands of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), especially the illiterate belonging to the rural areas of the district, are being cheated in payment of their assistance amount allegedly by the retailers in connivance with ‘the officials’ connected with the app of a private bank.
There are 323,000 BISP registered women beneficiaries in the district, according to BISP local officials. They include 86,000 in tehsil Liaqatpur, 60,000 in Khanpur, 86,000 in tehsil Rahim Yar Khan and 91,000 in Sadiqabad. There are two modes of getting the payment, the ATMs as well as the retailers. Many of the beneficiaries who can’t read or write get their assistance amount from these retailers.
There are many complaints, especially by illiterate women from the rural areas, that these retailers deduct Rs500 to Rs1,500 from the assistance amount of the total Rs7,000 of each beneficiary. For this illegal practice, the retailers use tactics. When a woman approaches the retailer’s centre after receiving the message on her mobile phone, mostly retailers get their thumb impression on their device but they don’t pay them the actual amount on the pretext that it is not appearing on device. The retailers advise the women to contact the nearest app officials; otherwise, their amount of Rs7,000 would be paid after deduction of Rs500 or Rs1,500.
A senior official of the BISP Rahim Yar Khan says the BISP authorities have hired the services of the app supported by the bank. There is an area head and two regional heads who control their three to four franchises in each tehsil through a business development officer (BDO). The franchises further monitor almost 209 retailers in the district and the retailers have established 50 centres in Liaqatpur, 60 in Khanpur, 52 in Rahim Yar Khan and 47 in Sadiqabad. He admitted that complaints of deduction in assistance amount are being received.
A retailer on the Railway Road, on condition of anonymity, admits that the practice of wrong deduction is going on. He says the retailers get their devices from the bank after depositing the security of Rs50,000 besides Rs150,000 to Rs200,000 extra amount for this business initially. “Later, they get their commission on each transaction. But when the time of payment of assistance amount starts after every three months, three main officials of the app demand Rs150,000 to Rs200,000 from each retailer for issuing the code to login and use the device. The retailers have to pay an illegal amount to these officials to operate their devices for making transactions. That’s why they deduct Rs500 to Rs1,500 from maximum beneficiary women to adjust their loss,” the retailer claims.
Another retailer of Iqbalabad says these officials related to the app use the term ‘bundle’ which means the amount of transaction a retailer makes and he pays the amount according to the amount of transactions.
A senior officer in the main branch of the private bank, requesting anonymity, says the app representatives are neither employees of the bank nor are they authorised to deal with the retailers on the bank premises. “However, three representatives of the app pose as bank officers in the bank.”
He adds that the app officials are so influential that they have shut the facility of using thumb impressions for getting transactions from the ATM of the bank so that the beneficiaries who can use the ATM would also have to go to retailers to get their assistance amount.
The area head of the bank was called many times by Dawn to get information of legal status of the app officials but he did not reply. When contacted, the spokesperson at the head office of the bank in Karachi said that he would give his version according to the questions but despite the passage of five days, he did not give the version.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023
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