Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Sania Nishtar Wednesday announced that the upcoming Ehsaas Kafaalat tranche for the period of July to December is all set to be released nationwide next week. The preparations were well underway with partnering banks- Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and Bank Alfalah Limited. The biometrically enabled payment operations will be initiated in the entire country to serve Kafaalat recipients, with the release of Kafaalat tranche. Dr. Sania Nishtar visited the HBL branch located at Melody Market Islamabad to assess preparations to improve the quality of cash withdrawal services through ATMs. She also interacted with Ehsaas beneficiaries and explained to them how to check their balance on an ATM. She also reviewed how HBL provides a hospitable ambiance for those marginalized segments who have never used a bank, including their procedures for facilitating beneficiaries through the new system of biometric verification. Dr. Nishtar issued directions to the banks to make better use of ATMs for Ehsaas Kafaalat recipients. The beneficiaries of the program are the destitute women with no other source of livelihoods. “The Ehsaas digital payment system encourages women to go to biometric ATMs and branches of banks, empowering them through financial inclusion, Dr. Nishtar said. “I would encourage Kafaalat beneficiary women to withdraw cash through ATM machines of designated partner banks, wherever possible. It will not just protect them from corrupt financial mistreatment, but bank branches and ATMs also serve them with a receipt detailing transparent record of available cash balance in their saving accounts”, she added. Dr. Sania during the meeting with the banks’ Presidents earlier this week also urged them to make better use of ATMS so that marginalized segments have an option to access the premises of banks. Dr. Sania also said that she had been receiving feedback form the field that in many bank branches, officers do not wish to mire themselves in the hassle of serving long queues and therefore indicate that ATMs are not open. She emphasized on the use of bank ATMs in public interest. Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries now have the choice of going to, a biometrically enabled ATM, a biometric retail shop or any biometrically enabled branch of the relevant banks. Under Ehsaas, HBL serves cash disbursals in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and Bank Alfalah across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Both banks are enhancing services across the country to ensure that women have easy access to their payments in a decent manner. It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing an Ehsaas Kafaalat preparatory meeting last week, had granted approval to increase the number of Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries from 4.6 million to seven million. The new deserving households will be identified after completing due diligence as per Ehsaas Kafaalat Policy. A poverty survey and analysis of the data is in the process of being completed phase wise across the country. Ehsaas registration desks, as another option, have been built at the Tehsil levels in each district to include any missing households. Opening of registration desks is linked to the completion of poverty survey in that particular district. Ehsaas Kafaalat is the government’s flagship social protection programme through which it gives cash stipends of Rs. 2,000 monthly and bank accounts to the most deserving and poorest women across the country.