Food & shelter for the needy | Pakistan Today

Food & shelter for the needy

  • PTI’s welfare initiatives must be appreciated

By: Muhammad Zahid Rifat

The social protection system refers to designing and implementing targeted social and economic policies aimed at reducing poverty and income inequality by providing relief to the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society. Social protection aims to enhance the capacity of the poor and vulnerable people to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age.

According to World Bank’s recent estimates, 10 per cent of the world’s population or 734 million lived on less than $ 1.90 a day. .In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, World Bank has estimated that 40 to 60 million additional people will also fall into extreme poverty during 2020 compared to 2019 depending on assumptions on the magnitude of the economic shocks. Under the pandemic, which has hit the world in its second wave more grievously, the global situation of poverty is likely to worsen further due to job loss, rising prices, disruptions in supply chains, loss of remittances, education and health services etc.

In Pakistan, owing to the incumbent federal government’s welfare  orientation and commitment towards the achievement of  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , social protection  has gained high priority and the government is determined to formulate and implement  all –inclusive social protection policies that have transparent and manageable targeting system. In the post devolution scenario, both federal and provincial governments are jointly working towards the achievement of optimal social protection and minimum social exclusion.

Providing food to the poor, needy and destitute people is a great virtue. And to provide shelter besides the food also is a greater virtue.

These steps should and must be appreciated by one and all; irrespective of political affiliation as this is generating hope among the needy and poor people that someone is there at the helm of affairs that is trying to facilitate them and taking care of them as much as possible.

PTI’s federal government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, ever since it came into power after securing peoples mandate in 2018’s free and fair General Elections, is endeavouring hard for taking all possible initiatives within the available resources for socio-economic uplift of the people at large with maximum focus on the needy, poor and destitute people. Quite obviously, the performance of a democratically elected government can and should only be judged and measured through its measures and programmes for the welfare and the well-being of the poor.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s quite appreciable and welcome initiative to set up Shelter Homes (Panah Gahs) for providing essential basic facilities to low income labourers, workers is a positive step forward towards establishment of the state of Medina, a model of perfection where protection of the rights of the vulnerable segments of the society is the primary responsibility and obligation of the government.

This is a bitter fact that the resource-less people have been spending their nights on footpaths or in open parks even in harsh weather conditions.

For the first time in the history of the country, a democratically elected government is taking measures for taking care its people to the maximum extent possible, like the shelter homes which are serving a large number of non-resident daily wage earners, workers and their dependents with dignity and honour by providing them residential facilities and two meals services daily that are at par with any one-star hotel free of cost.

This great virtuous initiative is in all fairness one of the best step forward taken by the incumbent federal government in compliance and realization of its responsibility towards the people. These steps should and must be appreciated by one and all; irrespective of political affiliation as this is generating hope among the needy and poor people that someone is there at the helm of affairs that is trying to facilitate them and taking care of them as much as possible.

It is also worth mentioning that PM Imran Khan, besides tackling the internal and external challenges and putting the national economy back on the right track and taking the country forward in the right direction, also finds time occasionally to visit the Shelter Homes, spend some time with the people there to ensure they are served reasonably good food and being looking after by the officials concerned. The PM also joins them i at meals here and there thus reassuring them that he is all out for their welfare and well-being.

During his visit to the Shelter Home (Panah Gah) in Tarlai area of the Federal Government, PM Imran Khan said that the civilized nations are recognized not by the luxurious lifestyle of the elite class but through the living conditions of the poor.

According to information gathered from different official sources, there are about 20 million people living without houses across the country and a majority of them are living in big cities.

Through its flagship initiative of Shelter Homes (Panah Gahs), the federal government plans to provide roofs to as many people as possible, ensuring food and shelter to them at the cost of the federal or provincial governments.

The federal government has allocated Rs 49 5 million per annum for each Shelter Home. There is no dearth of philanthropists and generous people and donations are also being accepted from them towards provision of facilities to the Shelter Homes inmates.

These Shelter Homes (Panah Gahs), whose number is gradually increasing, are being run on build, run and handover basis in collaboration and association with charity organizations as well as the private sector for sponsoring under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In this regard, transparent and simple procedures have been devised for accepting donations.

According to the latest data, more than 150, 000 poor, needy and destitute people have so far benefitted from the Panah Gahs. From September to end of November 2020, more than 17,000 persons were provided shelter, 130,000 served meals in the Shelter Homes (Panah Gahs) which portrays and reflects the Prime Minister’s philosophy of affection and care towards the underprivileged and vulnerable population of the country.

It is also appreciable and good to note that Pakistan Baitul Maal has been tasked to remodel, rehabilitate the existing Shelter Homes and also establish new ones for providing temporary/overnight stay with two time meals to the needy individuals seeking bed and breakfast while in pursuit of exploring employment opportunities.

In the first phase, the official sources have informed that the existing and new Shelter Homes in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) are being renovated.

Pakistan Baitul Maal has also finalized a plan to set up 26 new Shelter Homes including five each in Sindh and Balochistan provinces and eight each in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces by January 31, 2021, which is indeed appreciable. It should be ensured that these new Panah Gahs are in place as scheduled to accommodate more and more poor, needy and destitute people.

The writer is Lahore based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) , Radio Pakistan, Islamabad  and can be reached at [email protected]