The concept of Ehsas | Pakistan Today

The concept of Ehsas

  • Making welfare tangible

Humanitarianism is the basic philosophy of governance in an Islamic welfare state. Humanitarianism means feeling for the sufferings and plight of the vulnerable sections of society and taking measures to ameliorate their lot. The Ehsas initiative of the PTI government exactly conforms to the spirit and purpose of humanitarianism as enunciated in Islam and the modern concept of a welfare state. The Ehsas programme is a mixed basket of welfare-oriented steps and measures to rejuvenate the economy through providing financial and technical assistance to the people belonging to the lower strata of the society, and creating an enabling environment for them to set up their own businesses and enhancing the chances of their employability within and outside the country.

An honest and anodyne appraisal of the measures included in the Ehsas basket and their impact on the society, therefore seems quite pertinent at this moment. First of all mention needs to be made of the Ehsas Emergency Cash programme ─ conceptualized by Prime Minister Imran Khan to help and mitigate the suffering of the poorer sections of the society who were hard hit by the lockdown necessitated by the onslaught of covid-19─ which envisaged a one-time financial assistance of Rs 12,000 to the affected families. As per available details, the government so far has disbursed an amount of Rs 180 billion among 15 million families representing half of the country’s population with absolute transparency. People were asked to send an SMS for the financial assistance and the details of the applicants were scrutinized through data analytics and different parameters to select the most eligible beneficiaries that made sure that no fraudulent claims were made like the BISP.

In the present circumstances when the economy has been severely hit by covid-19 and thousands of jobs have been lost, the foregoing steps to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor people coupled with promotion of entrepreneurship through Kamyab Jawan and Hunarmand Jawan programmes seems the best bet to stem the rot and to rejuvenate the economy. The foregoing verifiable facts undoubtedly also establish and reinforce the welfare- oriented credentials of the PTI government, which must be acknowledged without any prejudice and malice as well as disseminated to the people who have the right to know them. One must remember that all programmes have a time-lag to materialize and make their full impact. The most important reality to acknowledge is that the government has set the ball rolling in the right direction. The people must look at these steps in their proper context and the prevailing circumstances. The government deserves credit for sticking with such steps irrespective of the inherited febrile economy and the hit it received during the covid-19 crisis

According to a study conducted by UNICEF UN and IPC-IG to assess the social protection response in Asia, focusing on an extensive mapping overview of how social protection measures were deployed by the countries in Asia and the Pacific region in response to Covid 19 crisis, Pakistan covered the highest number of responses to social protection in Asia through Ehsas Emergency Cash. It really corroborates the authenticity and efficacy of the efforts made by the government to protect the vulnerable segments of the society.

Other initiatives taken under Ehsas also merit mention. The government has launched Ehsas Kifalat Card scheme under which Rs 2000 cash payment will be made to seven million women. To ensure that only the deserving women benefit from it, the survey methodology has been revised to enable the ongoing identification of beneficiaries through desk registration. Also a new system of payment has been installed, cash transfer has been increased and it offers digital and financial inclusion opportunity to women by providing better access to mobile phones. All beneficiaries will be able to access the payments at special ATMs and bank branches and will also have an option to deposit funds into saving accounts. The government has also revamped the BISP programme by excluding nearly 800,000 fake beneficiaries from the list, and raising the quarterly stipend from Rs 5000 to Rs 5500.

The Ehsas interest-free loans programme worth Rs 42.65 billion is operating in 100 districts across the country and will impact 16.28 million people over three years. Half of the loan recipients are women. To date, 893,674 borrowers (46 percent women) have been given loans amounting to Rs 30.8 billion. The range of the interest-free loans is Rs 20,000 to Rs 75,000. As many as 3.8 million interest-free loans will be provided to 2.28 million households.

The Kamyab Jawan programme─ a component of the Ehsas programme─ is a very significant step. The loans given under it will help youth to establish small and medium enterprises, generating thousands of jobs. It envisages advancing of interest-free loans up to Rs 100,000 among the weaker segments of the society in 45 less developed districts of the country. The other two categories include loans up to Rs 500,000 and Rs 5 million. Women will have a 25 percent quota in it. So far the government has disbursed soft loans amounting to Rs  1.4 billion among qualified entrepreneurs under the scheme.

The Kamyab Jawan programme will be supplemented by the Hunarmand Jawan (skilled youth) initiative, which is designed to prepare youth for employment at home and abroad by imparting training and education in high-tech and emerging technologies. The responsibility has been given to the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC). The Commission through its training institutes will not only impart training to youth in line with the requirements within the country, but would also sharpen their skills with regard to their employability in the employment destinations abroad. The NAVTTC has also converted its job portal to National Exchange Employment Exchange and refurbished and connected it with all existing job placement facilities across the country. The Commission has already trained thousand of youth in different trades.

Other public welfare steps taken by the government include: Ehsas Salani Langars (soup kitchens), Ehsas Amdan programme envisaging distribution of Rs 2000,000 assets among 1.4 million people, and the Undergraduate Scholarship programme for which an allocation of Rs 20 billion has been made. A three-year health and nutrition conditional cash transfer programme known as Ehsas Nashwonuma (utilizing special nutrition food for mothers and children in nine poorest districts) has been initiated for which an allocation of Rs 8.52 billion has been made, out of which Rs 1.6 billion has been spent. Ehsas programmes also aim at organizing money by the Tahafaz programme office for the people needing medical help ; building of shelter homes for the homeless; assisting street children through public-private partnership as well as helping transgender persons who suffer maltreatment in the society. With a view to make the Ehsas programme a one-window operation, a separate ministry for social protection and poverty alleviation is being set up. Under the Sehat Insaf Cards scheme, five million cards had been distributed till last December and the target is 10 million by the end of 2020. The setting up of the Citizens Portal to remove grievances of the people is also a laudable step.

In the present circumstances when the economy has been severely hit by covid-19 and thousands of jobs have been lost, the foregoing steps to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor people coupled with promotion of entrepreneurship through Kamyab Jawan and Hunarmand Jawan programmes seems the best bet to stem the rot and to rejuvenate the economy. The foregoing verifiable facts undoubtedly also establish and reinforce the welfare- oriented credentials of the PTI government, which must be acknowledged without any prejudice and malice as well as disseminated to the people who have the right to know them. One must remember that all programmes have a time-lag to materialize and make their full impact. The most important reality to acknowledge is that the government has set the ball rolling in the right direction. The people must look at these steps in their proper context and the prevailing circumstances. The government deserves credit for sticking with such steps irrespective of the inherited febrile economy and the hit it received during the covid-19 crisis.



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