After completing its first Aashiyana Housing Scheme at Atari Saroba for the shelterless to own houses of their own, the Punjab government has similar schemes on the cards, covering as many as 17 districts in the province. Aashiyana (2) is soon to start. A briefing to that effect was given by Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif at Lahore, on Wednesday. Mian Shahbaz claimed that the Aashiyana schemes would have more civic amenities than even posh localities. The plan is to distribute 100,000 plots to deserving applicants in rural areas and 500,000 in towns and cities. The Chief Minister said that sites for these schemes had been earmarked, adding that the policy of giving ownership rights to residents of katchi abadis was being given a final shape. Mian Nawaz advised that the government should acquire land from the Auqaf Department and the unused state land to build these projects, should also house welfare institutions and make recreational facilities available to the residents.

It is laudable that the Aashiyana projects conceived by the Punjab Chief Minister are being implemented under his direct supervision, as with other development projects in the province. It is commendable that the deserving are being given an opportunity to escape a relentless rent cycle and own homes and be given a chance to develop savings and subsequently invest in the economy. The basic right to privacy as well as escaping the rigours of the cold weather, will be no small matter for the shelterless. Even accommodations of three or five marlas, as these schemes envisage, are more than most applicants can afford on their own expenses. In today’s Pakistan, with a continuously increasing population and inflation forcing more and more people under the poverty line, the need for such projects has become all the more pressing. It would be hoped if other provinces took a leaf from Punjab’s book and ran similar schemes to provide much-needed relief to the shelterless.