ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar said that the government has distributed Rs22.466 billion among 1.77 million individuals under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme till since the beginning of the payment process.
Addressing a press conference, she said, “It has been four days since Ehsaas started the one-off cash distribution of Rs12,000 each to the low-income households in all provinces, Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).”
“Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme is the largest ever social protection and relief operation in the history of Pakistan aimed to help alleviate sufferings of low-income households, who have been distressed by the coronavirus shut down across the country,” she added.
Dr Sania said that a few agents had deducted some amount from the cash payment of the beneficiaries but warned of strict action against those responsible for exploiting innocent people. “FIRs [First Information Report] have already been registered against 40 agents and they have been sent to the jail as well,” she added.
The SAPM said that the beneficiaries are also facing issues at some payment centres due to long queues. She urged the people who have not received the message to wait at home. “Do not proceed to centres unless you receive the message mentioning the payment center, time and date of receiving payment,” she added.
Dr Sania said that out of 17,000 payment centres, half had been opened while the others were delayed due to the lockdown restrictions. “We are making efforts to open the rest of the payment centres in coordination with provinces through opening banks so that the crowding can be avoided in view of preventing coronavirus from spreading,” she added.
She explained that this assistance is only for those daily wagers or piece-rate workers whose work has been severely affected due to the lockdown while those whose salaries have been stopped are not eligible for this amount.
Dr Sania urged those facing problems to contact call centre of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.
She said that a sudden surge in the number of incoming calls in the call centre was observed soon after the programme’s advertisements appeared in the newspapers on Sunday. She also said that she sat with call centre operators and interacted with the callers on the phone to get the better sense of what callers were asking about. “I wanted to hear first-hand about people’s complaints pertaining to cash distribution, so that we can make improvements in the program in real time,” she added.
Dr Sania said that on average 1,500 calls are being received on a daily basis in the call centre and this number has increased since the advertisement appeared. “Mostly people were asking about when the payment messages would be received. Millions of people have received messages stating that they are eligible but that they need to wait for the payment message,” she added.
“People want to know what the timelines is and the call centre is proving to be very useful in giving out details,” she further said.
Dr Sania was briefed that some of those who have received regrets want to make appeals. “Family members of eligible households whose heads of family had died wanted to know how they could be helped. Staff in the call centre is regularly briefed about the programme so that they can answer questions with clarity,” she added.
She thanked the call centre staff for their dedication and hard work and spent a lot of time with the staff to get insights and boost their morale.
She further said that the government has deployed biometric technology along with other COVID-19 precautionary measures, to ensure the safe and transparent cash delivery.