- And delivered badly at several places
The dole of Rs 12,000 to every family of poor and daily-wage earners hit hard by the lockdown might benefit the PM politically but a hundred rupees a day is simply an insignificant account. With tandoori bread selling presently in Lahore at Rs 6 per piece, a six-member family will not be able to get one bread each for three meals a day. Interestingly a medium sized middle class family spends more on any standard brand of pure water per day.
The distribution of the fund among 12 million families during the next two and a half weeks however will pose problems, despite being staggered over the next two and a half weeks. An overconfident SAPM had brushed aside concerns voiced by provinces, assuring that necessary measures were being taken to avoid people’s clusters outside the banks and provide them proper coronavirus-preventive facilities like masks, handwashing, chairs for sitting while maintaining the specified distance, disinfection, and so on. The Prime Minister congratulated himself for successfully organizing “the biggest cash distribution by any government in Pakistan’s history, directly to the most vulnerable and needy citizens in our society.” Both the PM and SAPM failed to take into cognizance the ground realities mentioned by the more seasoned political representatives of the provinces.
There were three problems, those related to the federal and provincial governments, those related to banks and those to law and order enforcement. At certain distribution points in both Punjab and Sindh there were no arrangements for social distancing, leading to queue jumping and pushing and pulling. One woman reportedly died in Multan due to the melee. The disorder was apparently caused by absence of the promised “multiple cash counters along with security for these spaces”. Consequently many who were healthy when they came to receive the dole could have gone home as virus carriers. At other distribution points, bank employees in collusion with their agents deprived the recipients of either the whole or part of the amount being disbursed. Reportedly, in one district only one out of 23 distribution points opened on Thursday while in another funds could not be distributed at all.