Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched an ambitious social safety and poverty alleviation programme for the welfare of the public.

Speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad to kick off the programme, named ‘Ehsas’ (compassion), the premier said the first change that would be brought under the poverty alleviation plan would be amending Article 38(D) of the Constitution which included a clause regarding providing people with food, shelter, clothing, education and taking care of their health.

But the provision in its current form is only a policy recommendation, Khan noted, saying that the government would need to bring an amendment in the Constitution and make it a “fundamental right” so the state can guarantee these five things to the people of Pakistan.

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“This is the first step, it is a difficult task,” the premier said, adding that the government was putting the pressure on itself so that anyone will be able to go to the courts and say that this is their fundamental right.

Khan said under the programme, the money spent on underprivileged segments of society would be increased by Rs80 billion, and further by Rs120bn by 2020.

“No government has so far spent so much money on poverty alleviation,” the premier claimed.

‘One-window operation’

He announced that a new ministry for social protection and poverty alleviation was being set up which would work on the coordination of the programme’s implementation throughout Pakistan.

The move is aimed at bringing all organisations that are working on helping the poor under one umbrella, Khan said, noting that until now different groups were functioning separately without any coordination between their efforts.

The prime minister announced that in the first phase, a database would be set up by December under which the government will know about people’s income levels as well as how many indigent citizens were residing in each area.

“Once this data comes, we will coordinate all the organisations from one place,” he said.

Khan added that everything will be made computerised using information technology and they would know which organisation is helping poor people in which area.

“We will run the poverty alleviation campaign in the country from one place,” he said, adding that people from one area would be served under a “one-window operation”.

Prime Minister Khan revealed that the government was conducting a new survey — which would be completed by December — on the basis of which people would be given financial aid. Until then, money will be distributed on the basis of a previous survey.

‘Tahafuz’ programme

Khan also announced that nearly 5.7 million women will be given savings accounts and mobile phones through which they will be able to access their bank accounts.

“This will be the most transparent way to give them their money,” he said, adding that the cash transfers to the women will be increased from Rs5,000 to Rs5,500.

Additionally, 500 digital hubs were being created in tehsils where the prime minister said poor people could go to access their bank accounts as well as to look for jobs.

“We will not just give them money, we will give them opportunities so that they can improve their lives,” Khan emphasised.

The premier then announced the ‘Tahafuz’ (protection) programme which would help people in difficult times by providing them with legal aid.

Once legislation regarding the programme is completed, Khan said, call centres will be set up to provide legal assistance to people as well as grants to children who want to study.

In addition, anyone who does not already have the Insaf health card will be able to call the Tahafuz programme office and the money will be organised for them.

Widows without any source of income will also be in the database and assisted by the programme, the premier said.

While on the subject of social safety, Prime Minister Khan disclosed that the government was not spending any money on the shelter homes it had set up in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, as people were coming forward themselves and donating money.

“It is the first time that such a programme is coming to Pakistan. You will remember the day we launched this programme the day [Pakistan] becomes a great country,” he said with confidence.

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