‘100,000 fake relief claims’

  • CDOs expect further rise in the numbers once data is compiled from all 14 worst-hit districts
- BHADRA SHARMA, Kathmandu

Jun 11, 2015-

The chief district officers in quake-hit districts estimate that as many as 100,000 households have applied to the local administration by producing “fake documents” to pocket the Cabinet-announced cash and other relief packages.

The household number, according to the CDOs, will shot up once all the 14 severely-affected districts complete the registration process. The dramatic surge in the number has already put the local administration offices in a fix.

CDOs in the districts complained that the aid including the immediate relief cash of Rs15,000 for construction of temporary shelters has not been distributed with the “sudden rise in quake-affected families”.

Backed by local politicians, even those families whose houses are okay are applying for the relief cash. The number of households seeking help has surpassed the number ascertained by the national census and local household surveys. The surge had stalled relief works in many districts while some of the worst-hit districts including Nuwakot have not yet started aid distribution due to the differences.

Those districts, which had already started fund distribution despite the data mismatch, are also struggling to hand out relief.

“Forgot the census record, the household survey conducted in Dolakha by the district administration a few months ago for providing shares in the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project now seems outdated,” said Dolakha Acting CDO Aulakh Bahadur Ale.

According to Ale, 57,966 households were recorded when the local administration conducted a door-to-door survey for the shares. This time around, 70,000 applications have already been filed at the DAO demanding relief. According to officials, family members who were living jointly before the quake started to live separately with the hope of getting the aid. “This has complicated relief distribution,” said Acting CDO Ale.

Among worst quake-hit districts, Nuwakot has recorded the highest number of fake households. “The number of affected households stands 17,000 more than the number as per the census data,” said Nuwakot CDO Koshhari Niraula.

The 2011 census shows only 59,215 households in the district while 76,992 have already applied to the district administration for state help. Officials in Nuwakot have not yet started relief cash distribution. “We cannot do it without finalising the actual number of quake victims,” said Niraula.

Local officials in Sindhupalchok estimate the quake-hit families’ number has increased by 10,000 compared to the census data that shows 66,000 households.

According to Acting CDO Bharat Acharya, the row over verification of quake-affected families has also hampered record-keeping.

Some VDC secretaries have run away after the locals continued to pile pressure on them for receiving their applications.

In Gorkha, some 4,000 additional households have applied for cash relief than the census statistics.

“Officials deployed from the District Development Committee are monitoring relief distribution while a probe is under way,” said Gorkha CDO Uddhav Prasad Timalsina.

The officials are worried as to how to stop relief aid from going into wrong hands. “We can provide cash relief to the needy people, but recovering provisions from fake victims is more challenging at the moment,” said Timalsina.

In Kavre, local authorities have collected details from only 24 out of the 72 VDCs due to the differences over how to identify victims.

CDOs from other affected districts such as Dhading, Rasuwa, Gorkha and Makwanpur said hundreds of fake victims in each district are pressing them for relief supplies.

The government has announced to provide Rs200,000 each to the families rendered homeless by the earthquake and Rs15,000 immediate aid for building temporary shelters.

Lured by the package, people living outside their home district for long have also returned and those living jointly are splitting families.

The Home Ministry has instructed the District Administration Offices to control the irregularities. “We have directed the DAOs to control the malpractices,” said ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.

Plan to introduce strict cross-verification measures

The Home Ministry is planning to introduce rigorous cross-verification measures to ascertain the authenticity of earthquake victims.

The ministry hopes to curb the malpractices with the new system. “We have been able to trace discrepancies in many cases. There is a need to strengthen the verification process,” said Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesman for the ministry.

Maintaining transparency and fairness in aid distribution has become difficult in the absence of elected representatives in the local bodies. Senior officials at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) say political meddling has made it difficult for the local authorities to carry out works in an impartial manner. According to them, the dispute within the political outfits and the division of victims along party lines is creating a hostile environment for the workers.

 “As the coordinator of relief distribution, the Home Ministry should look into the matter,” said MoFALD Secretary Somlal Subedi. (PR)

Published: 12-06-2015 07:29

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