- The government must not mishandle at least this
The inability of the PTI government to handle the coronavirus epidemic was best shown by the enormous mess that was made of the Friday congregations. They were shut by a provincial government notification, but on Friday morning, not earlier, so a large number of congregations went ahead. Congregants were told that they should offer the sunnahs at home, and that there would be no congregations the coming Friday. The Punjab government, it seems, has developed a habit of copying the PPP Sindh government. The federal government is not much better, for there are increasing doubts about its ability to administer the lockdown and the accompanying relief to both workers and business, which is the only possible way to end the epidemic.
Though Rs 3000 a month has been proffered by the federal government, and though Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced the good step of giving affectees a lump sum advance of four months’ allowance, or Rs 12,000, the question of how the payments are to be made remains unsettled. Mr Khan has spoken of activating the youth, and it is to be hoped that the impression made by the average PTI supporter, which is of a brash social media troll, is corrected, and changed into one of caring and helpful persons. Another option would be that of contacting NGOs already in the welfare game. As the Sindh government has already done.
The task is immense. Identifying the needy will be a problem. These are people without bank accounts, or even ID cards. Even if identified, locating them will be another problem. Only then can they be paid. Even if they have bank accounts, that will not help in giving them comestibles. The Benazir Income Support programme has been shown to be vulnerable to pilferage by government servants: exactly the sort of fraud the government must avoid, and to which this programme is most vulnerable. It will come under attack for the smallness of the help it is giving, and must avoid the infamy that defalcation will bring. The need is for speed, because by the time the government machinery creaks into action, it might well be too late.