Saturday December 03, 2022

Ehsaas deserves recognition for smart strategy and transparency

February 18, 2021

Islamabad : Amid a continuing political crisis fuelled by different political parties’ statements and their virtual wars, some government initiatives deserve recognition for smart strategy and transparent implementation. Ehsaas programme is one of them which received national and international recognition.

Steered by Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Sania Nishtar, Ehsaas works on over 250 initiatives and policy areas. All information on the progress is accessible through the Ehsaas website. There is a proper complaint mechanism for the beneficiaries. The program has developed strong linkages with the provinces and development partners for effective implementation, drafted numerous policies, created ten portals, and much more.

Sania Nishtar shared her experience of running the programme in an interview with ‘The News’. “Implementing such a huge initiative with transparency was a great challenge. The biggest one was reaching out to the neediest while creating as many windows of opportunity as possible to bring them out of poverty. The aim is not to distribute cash but to capacitate such families for income generation activity so that they can earn on their own.”

Responding to a question regarding criticism, she said she expected this but not the lies and falsehood. Talking about the impact of such criticism, she said that it never demotivates her but gives her more resolve to achieve the targets. “When we cleared the list of beneficiaries of undeserving people, the reaction was unexpectedly against that action. But that was our government’s promise, to stop corruption at all levels no matter what.”

Some of the Ehsaas’ active initiatives that touching the lives of millions of people include Ehsaas Kafaalat, Ehsaas Emergency Cash, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship, Ehsaas Nashonuma, Ehsaas Langars, Ehsaas Interest Free Loans, Ehsaas Amdan, and several others connected to the Ehsaas poverty survey.

Talking about some major Ehsaas initiatives, Sania said that Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme delivered one-time cash grants to 14.8 million deserving households (100 million people) with disbursements reaching Rs. 179 billion. In the last one and a half year, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships granted 50,762 need cum merit-based scholarships; Ehsaas interest-free loans supported more than 1 million borrowers (46% women) and Ehsaas Amdan transferred small income-generating assets worth Rs. 2 billion to 34,812 deserving households. Under Ehsaas Nashonuma, 48 Nashonuma Centers are being opened in 13 districts of the country to tackle stunting.

She further said that as part of the enhancement through PM’s approval, the number of Kafaalat recipients has been increased from currently 4.6 to 7 million; a new Ehsaas Kafaalat for Special Persons Policy has also been announced bringing 2 million deserving families with a disabled person into the fold of Kafaalat.

“To enrol deserving households in Ehsaas, the digitally-enabled Ehsaas survey is currently 70% complete and is expected to be concluded before June 2021. Once the survey nears completion in each district, Ehsaas registration desks are also opened at tehsil levels to facilitate self-registration of left out deserving households,” she said adding that payment to the new cohort of Kafaalat beneficiaries being identified through the Ehsaas survey has just begun last week. She also talked about Waseela e Taleem Digital, an education conditional cash transfer programme, that she said has massively been reformed and upscaled through end-to-end digitization, cost-effective changes in institutional infrastructure, new stipend policy, and nationwide expansion to all districts.

“Under ‘Mazdoor ka Ehsaas, 16 Ehsaas Langars have been opened so far in all provinces and the federal capital through the public-private partnership feeding 600-1,000 daily wage earners every day and work on the remaining has been fast-tracked. Furthermore, drawing on IT proficiencies, the living standards of all Panagahs in Islamabad have been restructured with enhanced infrastructure and standardized capacity for food catering and living.”

She said that by June 2021, the current pilot rollout of the Ehsaas Tahafuz, Pakistan’s first shock-oriented precision safety net, to protect the vulnerable against catastrophic health expenditures will be concluded. Also, the soon-to-be-launched is Ehsaas One Window initiative, that will assist beneficiaries through a single window solution. The first prototype physical centre will open in Islamabad by end of March 2021.

Sitting under the umbrella of Ehsaas, there are more than 50 Dar-ul-Ehsaas Centres in the country and each centre provides care and education to hundred deserving children. Likewise, through 156 Women Empowerment Centres, skills training courses are imparted to deserving yet talented girls and women.

With all these active initiatives expanding every day, Sania has her hands full. Her targets and ways to achieve them are clear and pasted on her office walls in different colours to keep her team motivated and informed. She has always maintained a low media profile. Still, her work shines clearly at the national and international level, which deserves acknowledgment.