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April 7, 2021

Ramazan relief

Editorial

 
April 7, 2021

As Ramazan is approaching, people’s concerns about the prices of basic commodities are justified and need immediate response from the government. Though governments at both the federal and provincial levels have announced some measures, there is a need to do much more especially in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hardships the common people of Pakistan have faced both before and after the advent of the coronavirus in Pakistan are unprecedented in many ways. First, we had a rapid depreciation in the exchange value of the rupee resulting in price hikes in the local markets. Then, the rising inflation led to a financially crunched populace which became unable to sustain themselves, let alone take care of their children’s educational and health needs. Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll in terms of much reduced livelihood opportunities while businesses closed and industries shrank their operations and production. Now, the upcoming Ramazan is likely to accompany a surge in the third wave that is already getting out of hand with thousands of new cases of infections reported everyday across the country.

This situation calls for a multipronged strategy from both the federal and the provincial governments. At the federal level, a well-coordinated and rapid scheme of vaccination needs to be launched in all districts of the country before Ramazan. At the moment, only bigger cities are offering a limited number of vaccinations per day. If we are unable to vaccinate people in large numbers in all districts, Ramazan will see a rapid expansion in the number of infected people. As the mosques remain open and attract large congregations for sehri, iftari prayers and taraveeh, SOPs will hardly be followed as past experiences have demonstrated. So, the implementation of strict SOPs and a rapid vaccination drive should be the first priority of the government.

Then come the economic challenges that the people will face. It is not only the lower-income groups that will be hard hit this Ramazan, even and middle-income segments will be hard pressed to meet their needs. Just opening some soup kitchens will not solve the financial problems the people are facing. Huge subsidies and relief packages are needed before and during Ramazan. It has become a normal practice in the country that at the outset of Ramazan the prices of essential commodities skyrocket. This trend needs to be checked and inflation must be controlled, failing which there will be further hardships for common people. Ramazan is a holy month in which people need care and support from their governments and the authorities must take their responsibilities seriously to respond to these concerns. Lastly, we must point out the fact that despite the claims by the government and a slight improvement in the exchange rate of the rupee, inflation is still out of control and people are under tremendous financial stress, and this stress must be reduced at least during the holy month of Ramazan.