A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety was held on Friday at Parliament House. Chairman Committee, Senator Naseebullah Bazai chaired the meeting; that was attended by Senator Seeme Ezdi, Senator Keshoo Bai, Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad and senior officers of the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division along with all concerned. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection (Federal Minister), Dr. Sania Nishtar was also present.
The agenda entailed detailed briefings on Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program and the Benazir Income Support Program.
The Committee was informed of the various programs being administered under these two umbrellas and measures taken to ensure transparency of the programs. It was stressed that the objective of these programs was to address on-ground core issues related to human development. Members showed concerns regarding the biometric verifications which in some cases were unable to be established due to age and occupation. The Committee was assured that all out efforts were being made to address the issue and ensure ease of operations. It was revealed that less than 7 percent of beneficiaries faced this problem and were given 16 attempts before being referred back. Transactions for such cases were routed through banks. Keeping in view similar issues a long term plan is being formulated.
Regarding disbursement of funds; the Committee was informed that initially the NFC formula was being used. However, now disbursements are made on account of the poverty index as per data of the National Socio-economic Survey. Regarding Federal and Provincial share in the budget, the Committee was informed the Federal Government has allocated 35 percent for the program and 65 percent responsibility is to be shouldered by the provinces. Regarding filters and the risk of exclusion of the deserving the Committee was informed that since funds were limited screening was mandatory to ensure that those in most need were not left out. Filters have been relaxed for the Ehsaas Ration Program for which registrations are currently on-going on the website.
The Ehsaas Kifalat Program of BISP was initiated in 2008. The Committee was informed that currently per beneficiary is being paid PKR 2000 a month. Target is to enhance number of Kafaalat beneficiaries to 8 million by 2022. PKR 1104 billion has been disbursed since the inception of the program.
The Ehsaas Taleemi Wazaif Program was introduced to encourage enrolment and control dropout rates amongst disadvantaged communities. Children of active Ehsaas Kafaalat Program beneficiaries are eligible and are given PKR 2500 for boys and PKR 3000 for girls. Disbursement of PKR 19.38 billion to 4.15 million children has been made thus far.
The Ehsaas Nashonuma Program has been introduced to tackle malnutrition in children. All Kafaalat Program beneficiaries with children from 6 to 23 months are benefitting from unconditional cash transfers. The program is operational in 14 districts.
The Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Program envisages providing merit and need-based scholarships over 4-5 years of under-graduate education. It comprises tuition fees and stipend to cover living costs. 50 percent of these scholarships are reserved for women. HEC is the executing agency of this program.
The Committee was informed of up gradation of all field offices to Ehsaas One Window Program to enable delivery of the multiple Ehsaas Programs through one window approach. It is expected that 469 Ehsaas One Window Centers shall be established across the country. The Committee was invited to visit one such Center in Islamabad.