Wednesday November 29, 2023

In their fight on food inflation, the poor now have a new ally

By Xinhua
March 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Aftab Khan, 46, has been selling mobile phone accessories near a bus stand in Rawalpindi city for almost a decade, but he believes the going has gone too tough for him to get going. However, he is not hopeless.

Originally from Pakistan's northwest Swabi district, Khan said he makes some Rs1,000-1,200 a day and sends most of the earnings back to his six-member family in Swabi.

“I hardly make ends meet with this amount and the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country last year has made the situation even worse, as now I cannot earn enough to support my family due to ensuing lockdowns and halting of businesses," he said.

Under such circumstance, Khan said he had been struggling to afford quality food for himself as a major chunk of the income went to his family in the village.

Thanks to the recently launched hunger-free initiative, he can now have freshly-cooked and free-of-cost food.

“I used to spend around Rs300 on food every day, but recently I am getting free food from food trucks roaming in the city.

I feel elated that by the end of this month I will be able to send back more money," he said.

The government of Pakistan has recently kicked off a “no one goes to sleep hungry” initiative under the Ehsaas program, a major poverty alleviation initiative benefiting millions of poor across the country.

“There are many areas in Pakistan where people go to bed hungry. Most people are on daily wages and when they don't get their wages, they have to sleep empty stomach," Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said addressing the launching ceremony of this initiative in Islamabad recently. The initiative would help the poor, the deserving, and daily wagers to save their hard-earned money to fulfill the needs of their children and families instead of spending it on food items, the prime minister said. T

“The needy individuals will be able to feed themselves twice a day at various points including near hospitals, bus stations and public places,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar said.

She added that the program had initially been started in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and would be scaled up soon to other areas of the country.

Private donors would also be able to contribute towards the poor-centric program, and the government has set up a donor coordination group within the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division to engage with the benefactors to make it more financially stable, Nishtar told Xinhua.

Lauding the all-out efforts made by the government for the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society, Talat Anwar, a renowned economist and former adviser on macroeconomic policy at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, said the program will bring a positive change to the people of Pakistan as it is in line with the global model for reducing poverty.

“For vulnerable communities, setbacks like the COVID-19 pandemic have brought incredible difficulties in the form of job loss, rising prices, disruptions in supply chains, reduced remittances, education and health services.”

Taking care of the vulnerable groups was the primary responsibility and obligation of the governments towards the achievement of optimal social protection and minimum social exclusion, the economist told Xinhua.

In a conversation with Xinhua, Bashir Farooqui, chairman of Saylani Welfare Trust, Pakistan's largest non-governmental organization, working for the welfare of poor and the destitute, said in compliance and realisation of its responsibility towards the common people, the Pakistani government was working strenuously for their welfare and well-being.

“Poor people are now feeling owned by the state as they have been given due care by the state,” he said.

Farooqui was of the view that provision of shelter and food greatly lessened the burden of on the poor, but he also stressed the government should take a leap forward to make their lives even better by imparting education and required skills so they can make their own way in the society.