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Relief, not task force

Nigah Muhammad

The writer is a reporter and journalist.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced to set up a separate youth task force, aptly named the ‘Corona Tiger Force’, to help needy people affected by the lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
During any disaster or hardship, it is the foremost responsibility of the state to help its citizens, but we have often seen the government fails to provide relief in such situation, while civil society organisations have come to the forefront in these difficult times to aid the government.
The government has the necessary system in place along with the required facilities and manpower, while NGOs and civil society organisations, despite their limited resources, are going door-to-door and helping needy people. The government is negligent of its responsibilities and either makes committees or task forces on such occasions as people continue to suffer from hunger and abject poverty. It is a travesty that successive governments, rather than serving all segments with any discrimination, only appease their own voters and support base while the deserving are deprived of such facilities.
The coronavirus pandemic has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in the country, and provincial governments have imposed a complete or partial lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. Apart from the elite class, most people work hard daily to make a living for themselves and their families. While the lockdown is a step in the right direction, it has severely impacted the lives and incomes of daily wagers, labourers, and small businesses and no concrete steps have been taken to help them.
There is no proper mechanism or data collection in the country about the various segments of society. It is the government’s responsibility to keep a record of all citizens including their socio-economic class. The lack of reliable statistics has deprived the truly deserving of receiving any relief.
The government does not support NGOs and charity organisations as it does not agree with their mechanism and way of working. But under the present circumstances, many well-reputed NGOs and even showbiz personalities are at the forefront with an open-heart to serve those affected by the crisis.
The government may not give any grants or funds to these charity organisations, but it should take practical steps to help those who are affected by crisis. It should seek the assistance of union council members who are aware of their constituents and can identify those who are truly deserving. The local bodies system is the ideal platform to provide free rations and other supplies to the needy people.
The government is only relying on committees, task forces, and appeals for contributions. It has been ten days since the lockdown in Karachi and people are beginning to feel the adverse effects. The prime minister should not make lofty claims and rather take practical action to provide relief to these people.
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