Works held hostage by disputes, red tape

- Bhadra Sharma, Kathmandu

Mar 28, 2016-

Three weeks into the process of signing a legal contract of assistance for rebuilding homes, the National Reconstruction Authority remains tangled in Singati, Dolakha, unable to make much progress. The current pace of work signals further delay as locals dispute the NRA’s list of beneficiaries and officials protest on the ground.

Out of the 5,300 households identified as needy of aid under the Singati Resource Centre, the NRA has signed agreements with only 641 households. During its work in Singati, the NRA received more complaints than agreements it signed with the displaced families.

More than 700 households from Laduk and Lamidanda complained of being left out of the beneficiaries’ list. Singati Resource Centre covers six VDCs in Dolakha.

Even the households that have signed the contract have not got the first instalment of the rebuilding grant. “Banks have not yet released the money,” said Surya Bista, an NRA section officer who oversaw the aid agreement process at Singati. Officials deployed for aid agreement between the local bodies and the displaced families said strict conditions attached to the aid distribution process have hampered the progress. The aid distribution regulation requires agreements to be reached with the quake-affected households only on the basis of their citizenship certificate and land ownership certificates prepared before April 25. Even if the earthquake victims appear before the Resource Centre with the required documents, the details should match the detailed damage assessment report and the land owner should be present while signing the deal.

With the given provisions, officials admit, the NRA will be lucky if it can reach agreements with 40 percent of the victims. “We cannot work here unless the provisions are eased,” said an official based in Singati.

Stressed and overwhelmed by complaints from the affected families, Village Development Committee secretaries of Lamidanda and Laduk, where the authority 

had started signing agreements, have gone on a weeklong leave. 

They have refused to carry out reconstruction-related works unless the red tape is removed and additional incentives are provided to them. A group of VDC secretaries in the district submitted a memorandum to Hari Sharma, divisional engineer at the sub-regional office, Dolakha. 

They have warned of completely halting the reconstruction works in the district if their demands go unaddressed, said Dolakha Chief District Officer Pushpa Raj Shahi. 

VDC secretaries have demanded 100 percent incentives (of their salary), appointment of secretaries in vacant positions and easing of the tough rules. In Dolakha, 35 secretaries are handling the reconstruction job from 48 VDC offices. The government has instructed the CDOs to arrange for a secretary in each VDC office by deputing officers from other offices. But CDO Shahi said he is not in a position to do so due to the insufficient number of officers.

Going by the progress so far, experts are sceptical of timely completion of reconstruction works and proper utilisation of resources meant for the victims. “The whole reconstruction process began with a wrong approach. I don’t see the possibility of timely completion of the reconstruction project,” said former secretary Bhojraj Pokharel, suggesting a victim-friendly process while rebuilding the damaged houses and infrastructure.

The NRA has been criticised for delaying the reconstruction despite international donors’ $4.1 billion pledge for Nepal’s rebuilding and billions of rupees allocated by the government in its annual budget.

Pokahrel said the traditional bureaucratic procedure would complicate the reconstruction process. “A liberal and open mindset is necessary for dealing with emergencies,” said Pokharel.

Published: 28-03-2016 07:59

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