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Ehsaas Program: A Comprehensive Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Initiative

Last Updated on March 29, 2024 by Ayesha Khan

Introduction

Ehsaas Program (Urdu: احساس پروگرام lit. ‘Compassion’) is a social protection and poverty alleviation program launched by the Government of Pakistan in 2019. It is the largest and boldest program of its kind in the country’s history, aiming to uplift millions of people out of poverty and create a welfare state. The program was formerly known as Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), which was initiated in 2008

Ehsaas Program is based on four pillars: addressing elite capture and making the government system work for equality; providing safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population; creating jobs and livelihoods; and developing human capital². The program encompasses 115 policy actions, which may be expanded as the process of consultations on the program further widens². Some of the key features and components of the program are:

  • A new constitutional amendment to make provision for food, clothing, housing, education, and medical relief for citizens who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness, or unemployment, a state responsibility
  • An increase in social protection spending by PKR 120 billion in two years
  • A new Ehsaas Kafalat Program will provide cash transfers of PKR 2,000 per month to 7 million women through biometric-enabled bank accounts
  • A new Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program that provides one-time cash assistance of PKR 12,000 to 15 million families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic¹.
  • A new Ehsaas Scholarship Program will provide scholarships to 50,000 undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds every year².
  • A new Ehsaas Amdan Program will provide assets such as livestock, agricultural inputs, sewing machines, etc. to 1.4 million households to enable them to earn income².
  • A new Ehsaas Nashonuma Program will provide conditional cash transfers and nutrition supplements to pregnant and lactating women and children under two years of age to prevent stunting
  • A new Ehsaas Loan Program will provide interest-free loans to 80,000 entrepreneurs every month
  • A new Ehsaas Langar Khana Program will establish community kitchens to provide free meals to the poor and needy
  • A new Ehsaas Panagah Program will establish shelters for the homeless and destitute
  • A new Ehsaas Rashan Program will facilitate the distribution of food rations to the poor through public-private partnerships
  • A new Ehsaas Zewar-e-Taleem Program will provide conditional cash transfers to girls for enrolling and staying in school².
  • A new Sehat Sahulat Card will provide health insurance coverage of PKR 720,000 per year to 10 million families

Benefits

Ehsaas Program aims to provide multiple benefits to the poor and vulnerable segments of society. Some of the expected benefits are:

  • Reducing inequality and poverty by providing income support, assets, opportunities, and social services to the marginalized groups
  • Improving health and nutrition outcomes by preventing stunting, enhancing access to quality healthcare, and reducing medical impoverishment².
  • Enhancing education and skills development by increasing enrollment, retention, and completion rates, especially for girls and women².
  • Empowering women and girls by increasing their financial inclusion, economic opportunities, and decision-making power
  • Fostering social cohesion and harmony by promoting solidarity, compassion, and generosity among the citizens

Eligibility

Ehsaas Program targets various categories of beneficiaries based on their needs and vulnerabilities. The eligibility criteria for different program components vary according to their objectives and design. Some of the general eligibility criteria are:

  • Being a citizen of Pakistan with a valid CNIC number
  • Having a household income below a certain threshold is determined by a poverty scorecard or a survey conducted by NADRA or BISP
  • Being a woman, orphan, widow, homeless, disabled, jobless, farmer, laborer, student, sick or undernourished person who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness, or unemployment

How To Apply

Ehsaas Program provides various channels for applying for different components of the program. Some of the common methods are:

  • Sending an SMS with CNIC number to 8171 to register for Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program or check eligibility for other components
  • Visiting the official website or http://8171.pass.gov.pk/ to check eligibility status, submit online applications, or track progress¹⁴.
  • Visiting the nearest Ehsaas Registration Center or BISP Office to enroll in Ehsaas Kafalat Program or other components
  • Contacting the toll-free number 0800-26477 for any queries or complaints related to Ehsaas Program

Ehsaas Program is a comprehensive social protection and poverty alleviation initiative that aims to transform Pakistan into a welfare state. The program covers various aspects of social and economic development such as income support, asset transfer, health insurance, education scholarship, nutrition supplement, interest-free loan, community kitchens, shelter homes, food rations,s and more. The program targets millions of poor and vulnerable people across Pakistan who are in need of assistance due to various reasons. The program also leverages data and technology to create precision safety nets and ensure transparency and accountability. The program is expected to have a positive impact on reducing inequality and poverty, improving health and nutrition outcomes, enhancing education and skills development, empowering women and girls, and fostering social cohesion and harmony in Pakistan.

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