After a series of hiccups with the postal service, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) switched to issuing its own debit card, starting with women in Memon Goth, Malir.
On Monday, the Benazir Card project was launched in Liaquatabad, Malir and Gulistan-e-Jauhar. Previously, the women received financial assistance from the BISP through the post. However, after a series of complaints and embezzlements, the collaboration between the post offices and BISP came to an end.
According to the provincial minister for Zakat and Ushr, Sadiq Jokhio, they had problems with the post offices which is why they had decided to launch the Benazir Card. BISP’s assistant media officer Shafquat Ali told The Express Tribune that corruption in the Pakistan Post had forced them to stop using its services. He said that on every Rs1,000 they sent out, the post office employees took Rs300 to Rs400.
The card distribution took place after the speeches, with officials from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) verifying Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) and taking thumb impressions of the eligible candidate. Officials from United Bank Limited were busy issuing the debit cards on the spot. While Nadra official, Rizwan Ahmed, kept telling women not to sell the card he also promised that the money would be transferred within 72 hours.
Many of the women who received the Benazir Card, a debit card, which gives them Rs1,000 every month were mystified with the plastic. Most of them have never stepped inside a bank, let alone punched a pin number into an ATM machine before. “I don’t understand how to use it,” said Jamaanti while shaking her head. “It is very difficult.” As she held on to an envelope with the card and pin code, she hoped that the monthly payment would be regular. She claimed that the last time she had received the promised amount was four months ago.
Nearly, 6,500 women in Memon Goth will be given the Benazir Card over the next four months. For many of them, the Rs1,000 is a blessing. “Although I have never been given one before, I hope with the money I will be able to give my children food twice a day,” said Kulsoom as she vanished into the crowd to get her debit card.
Some women pushed their way to the front as they held on to their CNICs and BISP receipts. Many others stood outside the room and kept gesturing at the bankers to give them a card. The desperation was quite palpable as they had gone without money for months.
“I got the money only twice,” said Aziza, a resident of Malir. “The last time I got it was in September. My husband is dead and I have seven small children to feed. It is very hard to run the family alone.” To earn money, Aziza buys artificial earrings and rings and sells them door-to-door.
Naimati said that she had applied for the money last year but had not received the first payment as yet. “My husband does not work,” she said. “I earn a measly Rs2,000 from cleaning houses. I had applied for the payment seven months ago and got the receipt. I have not received any money.”
Around 1.3 million women were supposed to get the Benazir Card in Karachi while 2.4 million were supposed to get it in Sindh. “We conducted a poverty survey last year to locate the deserving families,” said Ali. “Before conducting the survey in the province, there were only 1.2 million women who were registered. Now the figure has doubled.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2012.