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Quake victims facing hard time: Absence of VDC secys paralysing local govt

  • Reconstruction work likely to be hit
- BHADRA SHARMA, Kathmandu

Dec 20, 2015-

With less than a quarter of around 3,200 Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries providing services from their designated duty stations, local governance across the country has been affected, with service seekers facing a hard time.

VDC secretaries serve as a key nodal point for all government services at the village level. “Out of over 3,000 VDC secretaries, only 780 are providing services from their designated offices,” said Rabindra Adhikari, Chairman of the Parliamentary Development Committee.

According to the PDC, majority of the VDC secretaries have permanently relocated to district headquarters, citing health and administrative reasons. The mass relocation of VDC secretaries has largely paralysed local government, forcing thousands of citizens to travel to district headquarters even for minor services. “The situation is quite appalling,” said Adhikari. “Nothing can be worse [than this] in terms of governance.”

In the absence of elected people’s representatives, the VDC secretaries have increased responsibilities in local bodies since 2002, as local body elections have not been held for the last 17 years.

While service seekers across the country are affected, absence of VDC secretaries in the earthquake affected districts has made it difficult for quake victims when it comes to accessing the state. There has been delay in relief and reconstruction assistance for thousands of quake victims, officials say.

Sindhupalchowk, one of the districts worst affected by the April 25 earthquake, is a case in point.

As many as 25 VDC offices, out of 68, in Sindhupalchowk, are without VDC secretaries. Quake victims here are desperately waiting for relief and construction materials. And with the onset of winter, their hardships are but going to snowball. With no VDC secretaries to approach, they are in a tight spot. Similarly, five VDC offices in Rasuwa are without VDC secretaries.

The PDC on Saturday sought details from concerned ministries and asked the government to fill vacant positions within a month in quake-hit districts. In case of other districts, the parliamentary committee has instructed the government, Public Service Commission, Ministry of General Administration and Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development to make appointments in all VDC offices.

Every year, more than Rs 40 billion is disbursed through local bodies, and billions more is likely to flow through VDCs for post-earthquake reconstruction. Donors have pledged over $4 billion for post-earthquake reconstruction, and the government has released Rs 15 billion for victims and temporary shelters.

As part of temporary settlement for quake survivors, the government had released Rs 15,000 each to families that were rendered homeless. Some victims are still complaining that they have been deprived of succour promised by the government.

Secretaries deliver relief and implement reconstruction schemes at local levels. “Even in normal times, a VDC secretary performs works related to 26 ministries,” said Govind Raj Pokhrel, former vice-chair of the National Planning Commission. “Not having them during this crucial moment is akin to another disaster.”

In numbers

- 780: VDC secretaries, out of nearly 3,200, providing services from their designated offices

- 419: Positions vacant    

- 160: VDC offices of quake-hit districts without secretaries

- 25: VDCs, out of 68, in Sindhupalchowk do not have secretaries

- 5: VDCs, out of 18, in Rasuwa do not have secretaries

- 26: Ministries that work directly through VDCs

- 40: Rupees in billion that is disbursed through local bodies

- 17: The number of years that have passed since the last local body elections were held

Published: 20-12-2015 09:03

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