Money Matters

Turning all to ash

Money Matters
By Mansoor Ahmad
Mon, 01, 22

People now realise that the present regime is incapable of managing the economy, but what pains them more is its failure to lay the foundation that allows people to move from material poverty to adequate assets and livelihoods.

Turning all to ash

People now realise that the present regime is incapable of managing the economy, but what pains them more is its failure to lay the foundation that allows people to move from material poverty to adequate assets and livelihoods.

Poor desire to be treated equally as human beings. They want to come out of social isolation that comes with poor infrastructure and denial of access and services.

Constitutionally all citizens are equal, but practically the poor are only given importance at the time of elections. After that they are treated as garbage.

There are slums around all affluent residential localities. These localities are well maintained except the adjoining slums.

The affluent do not want these slums to be removed because they provide them cheap household help. There is no civil society in Pakistan that comprises doctors, engineers, accountants and lawyers and the educational executives serving the private sector.

Unfortunately, the doctors do not have time to waste on social work. They are busy minting money from sick people. They are bothered only about their high charges irrespective of the fact that the patient is rich or poor.

Engineers too have no time to protest inequalities in the society. They are busy with their projects. Lawyers are on the hunt for clients. They plead only in cases where they are adequately paid for their services. Asking for frequent adjournments of the cases is a common practice because lawyers get fees mostly based on appearance in the court.

If they go to court and the opponent lawyer has obtained adjournment, then both are entitled to a fee. One because he went to plead the case and the other lawyer gets compensated because his/her client asked for delay. Most of the civil cases are fought among the poor.

The present regime has provided lollipops to the poor in the shape of subsidies. First in monthly small amounts through Benazir Income Support Fund (now Ehsaas programme). More recently the government has also started paying Rs1,000 per month to the poor families for buying food and certain essential items at a 30 percent discount from designated stores.

Moreover, it has opened free meal centres (langer khannas) throughout the country where free meals are provided to the poor. There is no check and balance.

The poor now need not look for work, but get registered in the subsidy schemes of the state. Majority of the poor realise that the subsidies would not last long and even if they do, they will always remain poor. Most of them possess no skills. They need skill training.

For a poor person, everything is terrible — illness, humiliation, shame. They are cripples; they are afraid of everything; they depend on everyone. No one needs them. They are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.

For instance, Gul Khan a night watchman at Gowalmandi has crossed 60 and his health is deteriorating. He complains of not being able to obtain treatment from any government hospital and he cannot afford to obtain treatment from private doctors. For him health is the main issue.

Even some employed persons feel poor because they are deprived of even the minimum wage as unregistered factories invariably pay them 25-30 percent less than the minimum wages fixed by the state.

They cannot provide education to their children about fulfilling their smallest wishes. Even if these families get all current subsidies announced for the poor, their income would remain below the minimum wage fixed by the government.

Instead of doling out subsidies that the poor get after too much effort, the next government should ensure that at least the minimum wage fixed by the state is provided to every worker.

Then there are the poor like Hajiran Bibi who lost her vegetable vendor husband in aerial firing at a marriage function. For her the government subsidies are too small. She is afraid to send her children to work for the fear of losing them in similar circumstances.

For her the sense of protection, peace and security is more important than the government's meagre support. She wants her children to exploit their potential without fear of blind attacks. Her aspiration is beyond the capability of this government.


The writer is a staff member