- Instead of being suspicious of the international community, the government should work with them to rebuild Nepal
May 16, 2015-
In the aftermath of the Great Earthquake, relief materials and aid began pouring into Nepal, both from other parts of the country and foreign nations. In this context, it is important to ensure fairness in distribution. It is equally important to assess the needs of disaster-affected people. It would not be incorrect to say that there is no mechanism to deal with the distribution and monitoring of relief materials. Nobody knows who is in charge of aid distribution—the Chief District Officer (CDO) or the Army or the bureaucrat sent by the government to quake-affected areas.
Well-coordinated, judicious, and impartial distribution of relief materials is important, because only then can we know what we have received, in what quantity, and plan when and how the relief materials will be distributed. Lack of coordination and monitoring means local political elites could monopolise distribution. Still, there is a lack of criteria to determine who is quake-affected and who really needs relief materials. Distributing relief materials to those who do not need them means that needy people in farflung areas such as Barpak in Gorkha and remote areas of Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha will not get those materials and even if they get them, it will not be adequate.
Trust, not suspicion
The Nepal Army, with the help of foreign rescue missions, has airdropped relief materials in some inaccessible areas, but such operations can lead to unrest on the ground as people could compete for limited supplies. This method, therefore, cannot be a preferred option to distribute relief materials.
Further, we should not suspect the intent of foreign countries who want to come here to help our relief and rehabilitation efforts. We should get rid of our ultra-nationalism and not think that foreign rescue teams are violating our sovereignty. Let us open our door to all kinds of international and national actors for rehabilitation and reconstruction. The poor and needy must not suffer due to the ego of a handful of people who see a conspiracy in every effort of our neighbours and foreign countries who want to help us during these difficult times.
There is a need to pause and ask ourselves, why the international community is not willing to give money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund? In the recent past, the state bureaucracy was arrogant and instilled fear among the international community in the name of ‘non-interference’ in Nepal’s political matters. The bureaucracy almost silenced them by using different means, sometime even the media. The government, perhaps, also lost its credibility in the international arena for its handling of transitional justice issues. The government should learn that no matter how strong it is internally, no matter how many Members of Parliament it has in the national parliament in its support, it needs international support in difficult times like these. No nation on earth, at least no poor nation, can live on its own in today’s world. Showing too much arrogance to the international community can cost us dearly.
The other reason why international actors are not willing to extend much-needed support to us is because of our track records.Owing to the legacy of corruption in our development works, the international community seems sceptical of directly giving money to the PM’s relief fund. It takes long time to build credibility in the eyes of the international community. Still, the government needs support of the international community and the UN and it can get it only when it does not antagonise them.
Likewise, the Nepali state should realise that people have no faith that the government alone will be able to reconstruct their damaged houses and lives. Nobody seems to be asking people what their needs are. It is just a one-way supply of goods without understanding the needs and importance of local participation in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Lack of knowledge about local values and practices often discourage victims’ participation and have thus led to unintended, counter-productive consequences in quake-affected areas. Externally imposed prescriptions cannot better the situation in quake-affected areas.
Let us join hands with the internal community and let them rebuild this country, which requires balancing the holistic view of grassroots realities, mid-level initiations, and top-level agendas. There is a need to see victims as active participants in the relief distribution process, instead of mere ‘receivers’ of relief materials.
Jha is an advocate at the Supreme Court
Published: 17-05-2015 08:34