Announcing a relief package for newspaper hawkers, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Thursday said Prime Minister Imran Khan had always cared about the downtrodden segments of society.
The initiatives like Shelter Homes (Panahgah), Ehsaas Programme, Food Centres (Langer Khanas) and Kamyab Jawan Programme spoke volumes about the pro-poor policies of the government, he said while addressing here a news conference.
Flanked by Secretary Information Zahida Parveen, PBM Managing Director Aon Abbas Buppi and Newspapers Hawkers Association President Tikka Khan, he said all the steps taken by the government were aimed at transforming the lives of the poor by providing them equal opportunities in all spheres of life.
Shibli Faraz said the prime minister fully believed in providing a level playing field to the poor and deserving people. He was known for his pro-poor steps even before coming into power as evident from the Shaukat Khanum Hospital and the universities set up in under-privileged areas.
He said the previous regimes had deliberately not carried out any development work in Balochistan, erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas and south Punjab. However, the present government was fully committed to the development of less developed areas, he added.
Highlighting the plight of hawkers, he said they performed their duty of delivering newspapers to the people at their doorsteps while braving harsh weather conditions. However, they made meagre earnings from sale of newspapers and no government in the past paid attention to provide relief.
The present government was taking steps to improve their living conditions and that was why the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) had planned a complete relief package for them , he added.
Sharing the details of package, Secretary Information Zahida Parveen said the PBM would provide annual medical cover amounting to Rs 600,000 would be provided to each hawker and his family, besides bearing educational expenses of their children.
Free of charge artificial limbs would be given to the disabled hawkers and their family members, he said, adding interest free loan of Rs 60,000 would be disbursed in collaboration with the Poverty Alleviation Fund to help them self-sufficient.
PBM Managing Director Aon Abbas Buppi said a focal person was being deployed in the Federal Capital to ensure constant contact with the hawkers union. The cases of newspaper hawkers would be processed on priority, he added.
He said over 80,000 newspaper hawkers were working in the country and most of them were facing financial difficulties particularly in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
He said the PBM’s Women Empowerment Centres (WECs) would facilitate the girls of of newspaper hawkers in starting their own businesses. They would be provided skill training and then given interest-free loan of Rs 75,000 to start their business, he added.
He said some 160 schools of PBM would provide free primary education to the children of hawkers.
Buppi said COVID-19 had badly affected the newspaper hawkers and the government under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan was determined to provide assistance to them in the difficult time.
President of Newspaper Hawkers Association Tikka Khan said he remained in touch with the Information Ministry for the welfare of his workers.
The Covid-19 pandemic had pushed large number of people below the poverty line even in the countries like United Kingdom and United States. Same was the case in Pakistan, where the hawkers like other people were also affected by the contagion.
Tikka Khan thanked the Information Minister for extending cooperation and providing relief package to the hawkers.