Ration drives

Editorial Board
Tuesday, Mar 05, 2024

Pakistan is only a week away from welcoming the month of Ramazan, which is also called the month of charity in the country. Government and private institutions usually set up distribution centres to offer monthly groceries to the needy. One such distribution drive was conducted last Ramazan in different districts of Punjab to distribute flour bags. But instead of providing some respite to the underprivileged, the flour distribution event turned into a death camp for dozens of people who received fatal injuries in stampedes at the distribution points. Given this, it is commendable that the newly elected Punjab government has started its ‘Nigehban Ramazan Package’ to deliver rations to the doorsteps of the needy people. This step will allow deserving people to receive the crucial help they need with dignity. The heart-wrenching images of last year’s chaotic event at flour centres are still fresh in people’s memories. The exercise of inviting underprivileged people and exploiting their vulnerabilities for photo-ops should be done away with.

The drive will also be a test for the newly appointed CM of Punjab, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Her maiden speech as the CM suggests that she looks forward to serving her people – like her uncle who liked being called the ‘khadim’ of Punjab. Welfare programmes during Ramazan are extremely important. The month almost always sees a hike in the prices of essential commodities – this could well be attributed to a change in demand and supply. But this increase also causes inconvenience for the underprivileged who barely get by. Government-backed initiatives and charity drives conducted by the private sector become the only hope for these people. Last year, not only were government distribution centres mismanaged, but private companies also failed to manage the crowd during free ration distribution drives.

The economic fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war has caused so many issues for developing countries like Pakistan. On top of it, the political instability here has turned the economic situation even worse. In Gilgit-Baltistan, the withdrawal of wheat subsidies led to sit-ins by citizens who vehemently opposed the government’s decision. This problem needs the attention of both the federal and provincial governments. Like Punjab, other provinces should also take effective measures for ration distribution. The country cannot afford a repeat of last year. All charity drives should be mindful of people’s respect and dignity. The poor and people from lower-income households have already suffered a lot due to never-ending financial constraints. Better decisions by the government will help people avoid inconveniences. After two years of political fighting, Pakistan is inching to some form of stability. It is hoped that well-thought-out and timely decisions by the government will help people in need.