Prime Minister K P Oli, laid the foundation stone of Sarje Tamang’s new home in Sindhu Palchowk and President Bidhya Devi Bhandari of a memorial for earthquake victims in Gorkha on Sunday. Both Gorkha and Sindhu Palchowk are among the 14 districts worst hit by earthquake in Nepal this day last year.
With little done towards rehabilitation and reconstruction through the year, Bhandari’s and Oli’s presence at the anniversary events hardly injects hope among the people in general, and the victims in particular. There was no attempt to involve the opposition leaders in these functions.
The government that was in power during the earthquake took almost three months to constitute a high-level reconstruction authority. However, the ordinance lapsed and the authority was defunct after parties failed to reach an understanding on its scope, composition and the degree of autonomy it would enjoy, within the stipulated 90 days time frame.
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With K P Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) succeeding Sushil Koirala of the Nepali Congress as PM, the authority was reborn again with a mid-ranking government official heading it.
It is not a paucity of funds but the lack of will, vision and concrete plans that have incapacitated the authority. An international donors’ conference held in June 2015 had pledged US $4.1 billion for reconstruction, promising more if Nepal needed it. Prime Minister Oli, during his official trip to Delhi and Beijing in February and March, respectively was taken around Gujarat and Sichuan by the host
governments to see the re-built areas after earthquakes had ravaged them. Both Delhi and Beijing are
awaiting responses to their question: ‘Is there anything that we can do for Nepal’?
Most donors who attended the June conclave were clear that their support to Nepal was, conditional inasmuch as the money should be spent transparently, there should be no corruption and that Nepal should raise matching internal resources wherever necessary. Sushil Koirala, prime minister at the time had said all those conditions were acceptable to Nepal.
However, a German parliamentary team in Nepal last month expressed serious doubts about the transparency in utilising the funds, a view echoed by Japanese parliamentarians when a Nepali parliamentary delegation visited Tokyo two weeks ago.
Reconstruction and other pledges by the government so far remain only on paper. A year down the line, Nepal’s only link road to Tibet remains un-repaired, hampering both movement and trade. Around 200,000 people are refugees in make-shift settlements, and an overwhelming number of families of those who perished have not received the ‘promised compensation’ by the government. Only 34 health centres out of 1300 plus have been rebuilt in villages — according to official figures as most donors and developmental agencies concentrated on rebuilding school rooms.
Similarly, around 130 cultural and heritage sites ravaged or substantially damaged are awaiting a face-lift. And, there are complaints about ‘new victims appearing’, signaling largescale corruption.
Thus, the anniversary is clouded with waning hopes and visible anger among the victims, something that has not yet taken an organised form and boiled over onto the streets.