Look before you leap
Jun 3, 2015-
Senior politicians and government officials remain critical of volunteer groups and I/NGOs involved in relief operations. The government was unable to implement its ‘one-door policy’ in the relief phase.
Now, however, it has come up with a list of provisions that I/NGOs have to fulfill if they want to work in the reconstruction phase. These measures allow the government great control over how and where reconstruction happens. Officials state that these measures are necessary to ensure that all sections of the affected population receive their equitable share and to avoid replication. In theory, the government’s efforts are laudable. In practice, however, its response so far has been far from exemplary, and there are doubts whether it will be able to ensure that resources channeled through it will reach the intended beneficiaries.
At the district and VDC level, government officials and political parties have been working extremely hard to provide enough relief to people across the districts. They are being helped by I/NGOs and community organisations.
Contrary to what is often thought in Kathmandu, across earthquake-affected districts, coordination between the government authorities and I/NGOs has been good. However, this cannot be said for relations between the central and local governments. Across affected districts—whether in Sindhupalchok, Dolakha or Nuwakot—local party leaders and officials remain very critical of Kathmandu. They say that distribution has been chaotic and uneven because ministers, Constituent Assembly members and senior bureaucrats in Kathmandu have been undermining the system. While they speak of the need for centralised coordination of relief, they have been busy sending relief to their own constituencies, home villages or relatives. In the process, the mechanisms established at the district level are bypassed and distribution has not been equitable.
There have been numerous visits to districts from central level leaders and officials. In some cases, they have helped strengthen the local administration. The important role that some central leaders and officials have played deserves appreciation. In the majority of cases, however, visitors from the Centre have posed more of a hindrance than help. Local officials have had to temporarily abandon their important work to cater to the needs of self-important ministers and party leaders from Kathmandu. Senior politicians regularly promise officials and political leaders in the district that their needs will be fulfilled in the near future. But in most cases, officials in the districts fail to hear back from visiting dignitaries. Such cases have caused much disillusionment and anger across the country.
While Nepalis’ reservations against I/NGOs, to some extent, is understandable given their own patronage networks and high bureaucratic costs (in case of the UN system, for example), the government and political parties should take a good look at their own conduct.
Senior politicians and officials will have to bear the maximum responsibility for the dismal relief effort. Ministers would do well to address the state’s shortcomings instead of hurling polemics against non-government actors involved in relief and reconstruction.
Published: 04-06-2015 08:51