The Senate Standing Committee on Social Security and Poverty Alleviation on Tuesday recommended an increase in the Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM) budget after it was apprised that more shelter homes are opening in Sindh and Balochistan under the Ehsaas scheme.
In a meeting of the Senate standing committee chaired by Senator Jahanzeb Jamaldini, officials of the Ministry of Social Security and Poverty Alleviation and Higher Education Commission (HEC) briefed the committee members on the Panahgah scheme and the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme.
PBM Managing Director Aun Abbas apprised the committee members that shelter homes have been set up in Islamabad, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and it is proposed to open more in Sindh and Balochistan soon.
“The shelter homes are being opened under corporate social responsibility with the help of philanthropists, where the best food and accommodation is provided,” MD Abbas said, inviting the committee members to dinner at the shelter home.
Abbas said that the total budget of Baitul Mal is Rs5 billion, of which, more than Rs3 billion was provided to hospitals for the treatment of patients during the last financial year. “The rest of the money is spent on salaries.”
Senator Asif Kirmani suggested that the budget of Baitul Mal “is low and it needs to be increased as recommended by the committee”.
Further, the committee lauded the government’s Ehsaas programme and other projects related to social security, saying that they are being run on the basis of merit and above political affiliations which “is a commendable process”.
The chairman and members of the committee lauded the Ministry of Social Security and Poverty Alleviation for “doing its best”.
“It is the only ministry or programme that works beyond politics and political affiliations,” they said.
In a briefing on the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme, an HEC representative said that the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Online Portal has been launched for the academic year 2020-21.
“Students studying in undergraduate programmes at 125 public sector universities of the country with a family income of less than Rs45,000 can apply for Ehsaas scholarship,” he said.
The programme covers public sector universities in all four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“Under this programme, 50,000 undergraduate students from low-income families will receive scholarships each year,” he said, adding that the scholarship also includes a 100% tuition fee and a monthly stipend of Rs4,000.
He said that in the academic year 2019-20, 50,762 students were given undergraduate scholarships at a total cost of Rs4.827 billion.
The committee chairman was of the view that students from the backward areas would not be able to avail the benefits of online application as Wi-Fi or internet was not available in those areas. “How can students from these areas join the programme?”
The chairman suggested that advertisements be placed in “national and local newspapers” about this programme, adding that form registration facility should be provided in the offices of administrative officers “so that these people can benefit”.