| October 24, 2018

Miles to go

Earthquake anniversary
The Oli government has been making all the right noises on the eve of the first anniversary of the April 25th earthquake. Detailed survey of damaged areas is now complete, we hear, and within two years all those displaced by last year’s earthquakes will have permanent roofs over the heads. Yet given the government’s track record over the past seven months, it is hard to be optimistic. The much-ballyhooed National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was, at long last, formed back in December, after much wrangling among the major parties on the choice of its chief. No one, it seemed, wanted to miss out on the juicy reconstruction pie: the US $4 billion pledged by the international community during last year’s donor meet. Rather than helping earthquake victims rebuild their battered lives, the focus was once again in milking the state to feed political cadres. No wonder our major donors are so reluctant to trust such porous government mechanisms. This deficit of trust between the government and donors is in turn proving to be costly for around 700,000 families rendered homeless by earthquakes.

The government wants to do all the rebuilding itself. The donors, on the other hand, say they should be allowed to work directly with earthquake victims in order to minimize leakage. For a government that wants to do it all, it has been rather callous about the wretched plight of earthquake victims. In the aftermath of the earthquakes, the government had pledged Rs 200,000 in immediate help. But nearly a year later, most quake victims are yet to get the first tranche of Rs 50,000. Logistical hurdles have meant that there have also been few takers of the government provision of subsidized loans of up to Rs 2.5 million for each displaced family. As Prime Minister Oli himself admitted in his Nepali new year address, reconstruction which should have proceeded with hare’s speed was rather inching forward with the speed of tortoise. His government has also in the past found it convenient to blame everything on India and its five months of blockade of Nepal. But with well over two months since the lifting of the blockade, and seemingly no improvement in the pace of reconstruction, that excuse is starting to sound bogus.

This is again not to discount the sheer scale of the crisis. Even well-resourced governments would have struggled to deal with it. But what we have been disappointed with is the evident lack of political will to help quake victims. The Oli government has clearly failed to deliver on reconstruction. But it is surprising that the main opposition, Nepali Congress, doesn’t seem much bothered that up to 700,000 Nepali families are still living in potentially dangerous conditions. It has been curiously (and inexplicably) silent in the parliament. The Madhesh based parties, meanwhile, can’t seem to see beyond their narrow regional agendas. As we mark the first anniversary of April 25th earthquake, we can only hope that our government and political parties show more concern for their brethren in distress. If they don’t, it is up to the judiciary to whip them into action.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.