Being the sole breadwinner of her family, Samreena* heaved a sigh of relief when the federal government announced the Ehsaas relief programme after Pakistan was hit by the coronavirus earlier this year and the country’s economy went downhill.
After having lost her husband to cancer a few years ago, Samreena provides for her five children by harvesting cotton and wheat in her village in Rajanpur District. Her two boys study at an NGO-run school nearby, thus reducing the cost of their education while of her three daughters, one is in school, another got married early and the youngest she had to pull out of school as she couldn’t afford her studies.
As the family lives below the poverty line, news of the government’s Ehsaas programme was a glimmer of hope for Samreena. When she got word that the distribution of financial assistance had begun, Samreena travelled around three kilometres on a bike to the nearest government school where the district administration had set up camp for distribution of funds.
She reached the venue at 7am in order to be the first in line but found hundreds of women there already. As the distribution of funds began, it turned out that her ordeal was far from complete since the verification process was taking painfully long. Unfortunately, Samreena’s turn could not come that day and she had to travel all the way back the next day. Luckily, she managed to be processed in time the next day and received the promised total stipend of Rs12,000 [for three months]. Elated, she purchased the month’s ration for her family and went home with the good news. However, the amount and ration ran out sooner than she expected since the sum of Rs12,000 is not enough to make do in the present times, with rising cost of utility bills and essential food items.
“I was helped by my neighbours who provided clothes and ration sometimes,” she narrated, feeling sorry for herself. Wondering why the state has done so little for people like her, she questioned the need for her to seek help from others. “Although I am lucky to live in my own house, there are hundreds of thousands of widows who live in rented spaces and need the government’s help even more.”
In a real welfare state, people should not have to suffer like we are, she lamented.
*Name changed on request