Too little, too late
- Flood victims languishing in camps should not have to seek redress on their own
Apr 20, 2015-
Last year, the monsoon, as it does every year, wreaked havoc across the country. Rain-fed landslides and floods devastated the Mid Western districts of Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, and Dang, killing at least 250 people and displacing thousands. In the aftermath of the disaster, the government quickly pledged a relief package and assured that the displaced would be resettled in permanent homes. But more than seven months later, those who were displaced continue to reside in
makeshift temporary camps, having received no funds or little support.
The government had initially commissioned local authorities to locate land for resettlement, which had been completed. But on March 27, the government changed its plans. Now, those displaced will not be resettled; instead, they will all receive a cash package. Those who lost both their homes and land to the floods and landslides will receive Rs 125,000; those who lost only their homes will receive Rs 75,000; others who suffered damage to their property will receive Rs 5,000. The cash will be released in three instalments and the victims will have to procure land and build houses on their own. In effect, the government is attempting to shrug off its responsibilities with cash.
The plight of the flood victims has gone from bad to worse, as the government has watched apathetic. They passed through a harsh winter in those same temporary camps, with little to ward off the cold. The relief package handed out to victims in the immediate aftermath of the disasters had long run out by then. The shelters are ramshackle and there is little to eat and wear. Now, as the heat of the summer rises, harkening to the monsoon rains on the horizon, they fear new calamities. And in such dire straits, the government expects them to search for land, purchase it and build new homes for themselves. Nevermind that the cash package is woefully insufficient to buy land and
construct a home all while also providing for food and clothing for the family.
It would be incredibly callous of the government authorities to simply handover cash and wash their hands of the whole affair. It is the responsibility of a welfare state to look after those who cannot look after themselves. But this incumbent government has shown time and again that it is inured to the cries of the ailing. One need only look to Jajarkot and sick thousands for a glaring example of the state’s indifference. If swift action is not taken, both in the Mid West and in Jajarkot, the ruling Nepali Congress-CPN-UML coalition government will only cement the perception that it is a government of the privileged few, not the masses. Those languishing in temporary camps deserve homes and adequate recompense, and it should not take many more months for them to get it.
Published: 21-04-2015 09:56