Punjab: Marching Towards A Welfare Society (II)

Welfare societies boast of their productive education systems and affordable healthcare facilities, besides having dependable arrangements of waste management and environmental protection. They not only protect the interests of general public but also bring special initiatives to respond to the development needs of major driving sectors of economy like youth, business community and farmers. They also ensure equitable socio-economic growth of the marginalized segments of society like the have-nots, low-income groups, differently-abled persons, widows and orphans.

A dissection of major achievements of first 100-Days of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif-led Punjab Government reveals that the Government is treading the right course to ensure welfare of its people in major fields like education, health, waste management, environmental protection. transport and communication, besides taking measures for the development of youth and farmers.

A well thought-out and recently approved Public Schools Reorganization Program (PSRP), elimination of ghost students and rationalization of teachers in schools, outsourcing of some 6000 non-performing schools in Phase-I, reactivation of more than 500 dysfunctional schools, teachers’ training, curriculum development, accountability of teachers and continuous monitoring of teaching-learning outcomes in schools, besides a decision to adopt Phase-III of Pakistan National Curriculum 2023 are some of the major interventions of Punjab School Education Department under the visionary leadership of proactive Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif for the restructuring of school education in Punjab.

A Rs 27-billion CM Punjab Nutrition Program: Free Milk Program is a milestone initiative of the Government to deal with stunting and malnutrition in primary- school children across Punjab, in order to improve their growth and learning outcomes. The Government also intends to not only check school drop-outs but to bring out-of-school children (OOSC) to good schools, besides introducing Early Years Education as an integral part of school education.

Punjab ‘Hunarmand’ Merit Scholarship Program is another key intervention of the government for the promotion of higher education in the province, especially in remote areas. Under the Program, 100% fee of 25000 students doing BS from government and 08 selected private universities will be paid by the Government.

32 Field Hospitals and 200 Clinics on Wheels are providing quality healthcare services at the doorsteps of around 6000 patients across Punjab on daily basis. Responding to the resounding success of this program, Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif has decided to add 500 more Clinics on Wheels in the fleet, besides extending the Program to all cities of Punjab. The provision of free medicines in health centers and hospitals, free home delivery of 02-month medicines to cardiac, cancer, TB and hepatitis patients, revamping & upgradation of 2500 Basic Health Units (BHUs), 300 Rural Health Centers (RHCs), Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals (THQs) and Tertiary Hospitals in the province are no doubt remarkable achievements of the government to improve its healthcare sector.

The construction of first public-sector cancer hospital, Nawaz Sharif Cancer Care Hospital Lahore, Nawaz Sharif Institute of Cardiology Sargodha, and the provision of cardiology and cardiac surgery facilities in 08 districts of the province in Phase- I, and in all 36 districts of Punjab in Phase-II are other milestone initiatives of the Government to revolutionize healthcare system in Punjab. The Chief Minister’s resolve to provide cancer, cardiology, peads and burns treatment units in all cities in next 03 years is a commendable resolution. A plan to establish Rescue & Trauma Centers, along with ambulance service, on Motorways, and the launch of air ambulance service in the province are testament to the Government's efforts to provide reliable healthcare facilities well in-time to the people in distress.

Effective waste management is essential to have a clean and healthy environment. Under “Suthra Punjab (Clean Punjab)” Program, sustainable Waste Management Companies will start operations in all districts on Public Private Partnership basis to provide credible end-to-end waste disposal solution to masses. Waste would be collected from door to door and taken to landfill sites for proper disposal. Government’s “Zero Waste Mission” on the three days of Eid-ul- Azha was a successful full-dress rehearsal of the Clean Punjab (Suthra Punjab)” Program.

The ‘No to Plastic” campaign, the largest plantation drive in the province, Green Punjab: Plant for Pakistan, and a decision to plant trees along both sides of roads

in the province are key Government measures to ensure environment-resilient and smog-free Punjab for generations to come.

Rapid transportation and easy communication are very much needed for the promotion of economic activities. To achieve this end, the Government is taking various initiatives to provide a state-of-the-art hiccup-free public transport system in Punjab. 700 new hybrid and E-buses for all major cities of the province are being procured. The Government is also giving 30,000 petrol and e-bikes to students on interest-free easy monthly installments, besides plans to introduce metro bus service in other big cities like Gujranwala and Faisalabad. On top of it all, the repair & rehabilitation of 600 major roads, and the construction of highways & motorways in the province is another remarkable initiative of the Government to ensure ease and comfort of the commuters.

Youth bulge offers a great window of opportunity only if we invest liberally in their education, engagement and employment (3Es). The Government is focused on providing resources to turn its youth into a valuable asset. A Rs 25-billion Foreign Undergrad Scholarship Program for the talented students; a Rs 10-billion Laptop Scheme for the bright students; a Skills Development Program in high-tech skills like  Machine  Learning,  Artificial  Intelligence,  E-Merchandising  and  Start-up Training; a Skills Development Program for the training and certification of laborers in the fields of plumbing, nursing, electrician and tile fixing: and a program for the training of more than 03 lakh students per year in Digital Skills by Google International are remarkable steps of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif-led Punjab Government to equip youth with market-driven skills for grabbing rewarding employment opportunities. The provision of high speed Wifi service for the modern tech-savvy youth at 200 points in Lahore, with a resolve to extend this service to the entire province, is another landmark initiative of the Government for skill development and promotion of IT-based services in the province. The construction of Pakistan’s first IT City, Nawaz Sharif IT City Lahore, and the introduction of new education stream: Middle Tech, Matric Tech and Inter Tech in schools and colleges. along with the existing science and arts streams, are other major initiatives of the Government to enhance productivity of its youth to ensure their socio-economic development.

Sports offer a constructive way of engaging youth. The Government has decided to not only rehabilitate & upgrade school grounds to provide students with healthy sports activities but it has also decided to convert these school grounds

into community sports grounds for the general public to use them in the evening. It has also decided to develop sports grounds at UC-level, besides making playgrounds children-friendly, in order to afford people good facilities for healthy engagement. The first-ever Chief Minister Punjab Pink Games 2024 for the female players were held in Lahore in May, in which around 1300 female players from 16 universities of Lahore participated. The Government has plans to start a Punjab League. featuring sports competition across Punjab in which around one million youth of the province will participate.

Agriculture is undoubtedly the backbone of our economy. It contributes 24% to country’s $375-billion GDP, and 37.4% to its 67.25 million employed labor force out of the total labor force of 71.76 million. Given its linkages with other sectors of economy, growth of agriculture is directly proportional to economic growth, employment generation and poverty reduction in the country (Pakistan Economic Survey 2023-24). It not only provides raw material for major industries like textile, leather and sugar but also accounts for three fourth of the country’s total exports. Punjab has a major share in Pakistan’s agriculture sector as it contributes 60% to its agricultural exports. The Government of Punjab, under the proactive and vibrant leadership of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif, is rightly- focused on the growth of its agriculture sector. Not only crops but all other sub- sectors like livestock, fisheries, poultry, forestry and horticulture are being developed. A Rs 400-billion Kissan Package: Chief Minister Punjab Kissan Card Program is a remarkable initiative of the Government in this regard, under which a farmer will be given Rs 1.5 lac loan per cropping season to purchase quality inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides at subsidized rates, besides a loan at 60:40% ratio (Government will pay 60% and the farmer will pay just 40%) for the purchase of agriculture machinery. It will not only improve productivity of farmers but would also save them from the exploitation of middlemen. Additionally, a Rs 30-billion Green Tractor Scheme is another major program of the Government to facilitate farmers. Under the scheme, a farmer will pay just 30% of the price of a tractor while the remaining 70% will be paid by the Government. Projects for shrimp farming, productivity of oil seeds, and solarization of agricultural tube wells are some of the other major interventions of the Punjab Government for the development of agriculture in the province.

All the above-noted interventions of the Punjab Government under the vibrant and visionary leadership of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif are rightly evoking confidence and optimism in masses, which has recently reflected in a survey

conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR), in which majority of the respondents expressed confidence in her performance. If continues uninterrupted, we have all the right reasons to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.