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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched an ambitious social safety and poverty alleviation programme for the welfare of the public.  Speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad to kick off the programme, named 'Ehsas' (compassion), the premier said the first change that would be brought under the poverty alleviation plan would be amending Article 38(D) of the Constitution which included a clause regarding providing people with food, shelter, clothing, education and taking care of their health.

But the provision in its current form is only a policy recommendation, Khan noted, saying that the government would need to bring an amendment in the Constitution and make it a "fundamental right" so the state can guarantee these five things to the people of Pakistan.

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"This is the first step, it is a difficult task," the premier said, adding that the government was putting the pressure on itself so that anyone will be able to go to the courts and say that this is their fundamental right. Khan said under the programme, the money spent on underprivileged segments of society would be increased by Rs80 billion, and further by Rs120bn by 2020.

"No government has so far spent so much money on poverty alleviation," the premier claimed.

'One-window operation'
He announced that a new ministry for social protection and poverty alleviation was being set up which would work on the coordination of the programme's implementation throughout Pakistan.   The move is aimed at bringing all organisations that are working on helping the poor under one umbrella, Khan said, noting that until now different groups were functioning separately without any coordination between their efforts.

The prime minister announced that in the first phase, a database would be set up by December under which the government will know about people's income levels as well as how many indigent citizens were residing in each area.

"Once this data comes, we will coordinate all the organisations from one place," he said.

Khan added that everything will be made computerised using information technology and they would know which organisation is helping poor people in which area.

"We will run the poverty alleviation campaign in the country from one place," he said, adding that people from one area would be served under a "one-window operation".

Prime Minister Khan revealed that the government was conducting a new survey — which would be completed by December — on the basis of which people would be given financial aid. Until then, money will be distributed on the basis of a previous survey.

'Tahafuz' programme
Khan also announced that nearly 5.7 million women will be given savings accounts and mobile phones through which they will be able to access their bank accounts.

"This will be the most transparent way to give them their money," he said, adding that the cash transfers to the women will be increased from Rs5,000 to Rs5,500.   Additionally, 500 digital hubs were being created in tehsils where the prime minister said poor people could go to access their bank accounts as well as to look for jobs.

"We will not just give them money, we will give them opportunities so that they can improve their lives," Khan emphasised.

The premier then announced the 'Tahafuz' (protection) programme which would help people in difficult times by providing them with legal aid.   Once legislation regarding the programme is completed, Khan said, call centres will be set up to provide legal assistance to people as well as grants to children who want to study.

In addition, anyone who does not already have the Insaf health card will be able to call the Tahafuz programme office and the money will be organised for them.  Widows without any source of income will also be in the database and assisted by the programme, the premier said.  While on the subject of social safety, Prime Minister Khan disclosed that the government was not spending any money on the shelter homes it had set up in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, as people were coming forward themselves and donating money.

"It is the first time that such a programme is coming to Pakistan. You will remember the day we launched this programme the day [Pakistan] becomes a great country," he said with confidence.

The premier said that street children would be assisted through public-private partnerships as will be transgender persons who often suffer maltreatment in the society.  Additionally, a "movement" for children forced to work under bonded labour would be started and daily wage workers would also be facilitated through the Tahafuz programme. He announced that Bait-ul-Maal would be funded to build homes for 10,000 orphan children in the next four years.  Terming stunted growth a "big issue" for Pakistan, the prime minister said a set of nine policies has been created to address nutrition problems. He also highlighted the need for the provision of deworming, iron, folic acid, as well as anemia supplements at basic health units.

He announced that for the first time a "multi-sectoral nutrition coordination body" will be constituted at the Prime Minister's Office.  In connection with this, he said the government had decided to start an experiment, starting with Islamabad and Lahore, to regulate the quality of milk and to ensure the availability of the right milk for everyone.

Khan said women in villages needed to be provided with goats so that they and their children can have access to milk, as well as with desi chickens. "Many people in cities don't have an idea [but] this is a tried and tested model in the whole world," the prime minister said, stressing that in order to provide poor people nutrition and increase their earnings they should be provided with goats and chickens.

Additionally, he said women in villages will be provided seeds to grow vegetables to eat and to sell. He said edible oil companies will be asked to give them seed packages as well.
"These are the small things that make a big difference," he told an exuberant audience.
"The things I am telling you are cheap things. A country that doesn't have money uses their brain," the premier added.

He also promised that persons with disabilities would be given facilities such as special sticks, wheelchairs, crutches and whatever equipment they may require. He announced that 20 centres would be opened for persons with disabilities in the underdeveloped districts.


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday rolled out a Rs80 billion poverty alleviation programme “Ehsas” – aimed at uplifting the downtrodden and vulnerable segments of society.  The government will allocate an additional amount of Rs80 billion in the country’s social protection spending in backward areas from the current year, raising it to Rs120 billion in 2021.  “The government has launched a war against poverty,” the prime minister said while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the programme.

He said an amendment would soon be made to the Constitution, moving Article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section into the “Fundamental Rights” section.

This will make it a fundamental right for all citizens to be given food, shelter, education and health facilities by the state.  The prime minister also announced the establishment of a new ministry to alleviate poverty.  Various institutions likes the Benazir Income Support Programme, the Pakistan Baitul Mal and the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund will work under the new ministry, developing a one-window operation for the social protection of the poor and to facilitate citizens.

“Making the provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief to citizens a state responsibility is a first step towards the creation of a welfare state,” the prime minister said.  Under the “Kifalat” programme, the government is designing a conditional cash transfer for healthcare and education of six million women and families so that they can have access to nutrition assistance.  The prime minister said he was establishing a multi-sectoral nutrition coordinating body within his office. It will also include the private sector to ensure food fortification and supplementation, he added.

“Sanitation and clean water are essential to stop stunted growth in children. It is worrying to see how contaminated milk is being sold in different parts of the country,” he noted. Under the new programme, 5.7 million women will be given savings accounts under the “one woman one bank account plan”.  The prime minister said 500 Benazir Income Support Programme and Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal offices would be transformed into digital hubs where the government’s IT, technology and innovation resources would be pooled.

The government’s digital resources, such as access to the labour information system, online curricula, and one window social protection interface would be accessible and create opportunities for BISP families to lift out of poverty.
Under Kifalat, the government will increase the current Benazir Income Support Programme cash transfer of Rs5,000 to Rs5,500.

The government is launching a precision safety net, called “Tahafaz” to protect individuals from catastrophic risks – a transparent and trackable digital system of cash transfers through which the government will give legal aid, education grants and health assistance to those without Insaf card entitlements.

Khan said the government had already committed to launching the Insaf Insurance Card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people over a four-year period and had committed Rs33 billion for this purpose.  In addition, through “Tahafaz”, the government will cater to additional needs of those requiring financial access to treatment. The government will make sure every poor and deserving person approaching public hospitals has access to treatment and surgery.

The government will also set up shelter homes in several major cities of the country. The government’s housing scheme will focus on facilitating provision of homes to the poor, including landless farmers, through interest-free loans. The government has allocated Rs4.5 billion for this purpose.

The Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal will establish five Ehsas homes this year, and the number would be raised by the passage of time. “In the next four years, the Bait-ul-Maal will provide shelter for 10,000 orphaned children,” Khan said. Referring to the government’s five million housing programme, Khan said the government would ensure that women were given joint ownership of houses. The government is launching a programme under which wheelchairs, tripod and quadripod sticks and crutches will be provided to disabled people.

In addition, the government will partner with the civil society and expert organisations to develop 20 centres for the disabled people in underprivileged districts. The government is adopting a new policy of placing placards outside of each basic health unit and hospital mentioning the amount allocated and the staff meant to be present there to increase transparency.  The prime minister said he had instructed all protectors of emigration office to create a single window for all types of requirements and make workers aware about their entitlements.

“The government has decided that migrant unskilled workers, earning less than a given income and who have not visited home for more than seven years, will be provided subsidy on air tickets,” Khan announced. He also announced an increase in the monthly labour pension through Employees Old Age Benefit Institution from Rs5,250 to Rs6,500. Biometric payments will be used for all labour pensioners from next year to counter pilferage.  The prime minister said being aware of the special problem of the inability to reach children where there were dispersed populations, the government would make e-learning content freely available online and use chat bots in local languages for displaced populations.

The government will allocate Rs3 billion per year for scholarships in the higher education particularly in backward areas.  The prime minister also announced a policy of corporate farming to help farmers with fragmented and small land holdings. This will provide market stimulus for livestock and fisheries in arid zones to create livelihood opportunities for small farmers.

The government will work on facilitating the expansion of microfinance services to reach remote areas. It will would include skill-training in school curricula from 8th class. The age of enrollment in technical training is also being decreased from 18 to 15 so that after matriculation and skill-training can be started immediately.  To facilitate remittances, the government is introducing a slab for remitters of up to $100 with half of the existing fee.

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