I am writing this with reference to the letter titled “Noble aim gone wrong” published in the daily Nation of August 28, 2012. The charges regarding BISP’s monthly cash transfers are devoid of facts and indicate lack of knowledge on the part of the writer about the operational mechanisms of BISP. BISP is the biggest cash transfer Program of the country covering millions of poor families. These families have been identified through a scientific and objective poverty survey undertaken with the technical support of World Bank. Approximately 7 million families have been identified, through state-of-the-art computerised mechanism, for receiving various BISP benefits.
Cash transfers to these families were initially made through money orders, which was manual and the beneficiaries had to wait for weeks to receive it. However, to make the disbursement absolutely foolproof, speedy and transparent, technology based Benazir Debit Card has been launched across the country. Benazir Debit Cards are being issued to the poor families identified through the objective and transparent poverty survey. This mechanism gives the beneficiaries the choice either to withdraw their money through ATMs or visit the nearest designated franchisee centers to receive it through POS Machines.
As for the impression that a number of deserving females have to wait in queue for long hours for the Benazir Debit Card and go home empty handed, it is pertinent to mention that special distribution centres have been set up at Tehsil level across the country. More than one center has been established in Tehsils where the number of beneficiaries is higher. Under this plan, a specific number of beneficiaries is invited (union council-wise) through a special letter informing about the schedule and location of distribution. Moreover, it is also relevant to mention that the number of counters (both for NADRA and the partnering bank) set up in a center is directly proportional to the maximum number of beneficiaries expected to visit per day. However, it has been observed that a number of families from the rural areas who are not BISP beneficiaries also turn up at these centres in expectation of getting BISP benefits but the system, after verification, has to turn these people back. Since these visitors are also dealt with through the same centers, it causes delay in the delivery of the debit cards to the eligible beneficiaries as well. This is happening despite the fact that a major awareness campaign has been launched to disseminate information regarding mode of collection of debit cards. So far more than 1.6 million cards have been distributed in 82 districts. Implementation of the mechanism is planned to be completed by end of September this year and once the distribution process is completed for the 7 million eligible families, these centres will be dismantled.
It is also important to mention here that these identified families go beyond geographical, ethnic and political lines across the country. BISP system is designed as per the world’s best practices so that no discrimination could be made against or in favor of anyone; nor could even one beneficiary be arbitrarily included or excluded from the program.
Islamabad, September 3.