Inexcusable laxity and digression of leaders heap misery on quake survivors (Commentary)

Laprak-gorkhaNarayan Prasad Ghimire / Kathmandu: Largely owing to sheer laxity of the government and the political parties, almost a year has passed away without any tangible progress on the reconstruction and rebuilding activities since the devastating April 25 earthquake. The quake survivors braved a year-long cycle of rain and biting cold inside temporary shelters and are certain to undergo the same cycle with monsoon approaching fast.

Even in the capital people are still seen living in tents while those in the remote villages of the quake-affected districts that suffered worst with the temblors are desperately waiting for the monetary assistance, the government has committed for long, to build new houses.

Immediately after the disaster, the immediate rescue and relief operation of the security forces from the country and those from friendly countries was quite laudable, for some of those trapped inside the rubbles were rescued days after the quake. But, the relief distribution to the survivors was almost a mess. Distribution of relief materials was quite scanty somewhere that it was hardly a sop, while it was plentiful to others, making them feel everything arrives at home after disaster. It was because there were many providers and funders ranging from political party leaders to foreign donors willing to meet the survivors in person and hand them the succour. On the other hand, while waiting for the succour, many survivors had to escape cultivation, but returned empty-handed. The messy distribution also led to a rising number of fake victims of the disaster.

Despite this bitter reality of the disaster survivals, political leaders and ministers did not tire of saying: The disaster survivors/victims will get the relief amount ‘soon’. This ‘soon’ has now turned to ‘one year’. But, how much is too much? To this inexcusable laxity of the government and digression of political parties, the ill-fated people gradually pacified themselves, cleared the rubbles, cultivated the fields, and began rebuilding shelters and houses of their needs on their own. They damn cared the design of the buildings the government, till some days back, was insisting on making the house on the set design. To this, news stories have come that more than 30,000 families have built homes on their own. It is not that the poor survivals are rich enough to manage their settlement, but it is compulsion of safe shelter that protects them from heat, cold, rain and storms. And importantly, it is also slap to the lackadaisical National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

Anyway, NRA has been successful lately to begin distributing first tranche of money in various eight VDCs of different eights suffering worst in the earthquakes. Everyone is awaiting its acceleration in view of the coming rains.

Mere allegation to the present government however may be biased. It took almost eight months for our political parties to pass the bill on reconstruction which finally paved a way for the formation of the NRA. It is fair to say that as the politics prevails in every sector, it has been difficult for NRA to identify real victims of the earthquake. Quite worrying is the fact that different parties/leaders see disaster victims differently in the villages.

Corruption by the party cadres and civil servants on distribution of tarpaulin sheets to quake victims was another unforgettable thing that directly indirectly hindered the identification of real victims, formation of the NRA and distribution of assistance. The torturous blockade India imposed on Nepal in response to the democratic constitution was another blemish hindering the reconstruction activities.

The most depressing thing of Nepal’s politics is the disunity among political parties. Categorization of disaster victims based on political faith in the villages and rumours of government change in the central polity are obviously hindering the rebuilding work. With the change in leadership, Nepali Congress is all set to advocate for another government under its leadership; while the ruling CPN-UML is to brave the opposition’s demand and desperate to bring the next budget; Chairman of the UCPN (Moist) Pushpa Kamal Dahal is relishing the single-man hold in the party after always-nagging Dr Baburam Bhattarai departed; the Madhesi parties, which are unable to shed the tag of Madhes centric parties, have decided to afflict Kathmandu Valley as renewed struggle for rights; and the new force coordinator Dr Bhattarai is floundering to collect creams from different sectors and busy in unwarranted courting. How do they come in one place to cater justice to the needy?

Finally, on the anniversary of the disaster that claimed nearly 9,000 lives and injured 22,000 plus people, only thing to request the government and political parties and leaders is to accelerate reconstruction activities. The rainy season is coming soon. It may be coupled with other disasters which would further worsen the condition of the needy ones. RSS

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