Grinding on

  • People are fed up with the frequent changes in government without any purpose
- Jagannath Adhikari

May 18, 2016-

Nepal has not been able to manage disasters—whether they are natural or man-made. People affected by the Gorkha Earthquake are still suffering even after a year of its occurrence. The government celebrated the first anniversary of the quake without any regrets about its inefficiency. 

In disaster studies, the present period is considered the ‘late phase’. This phase should, in principle, start immediately after the acute phase, which typically should last up to 10 to 15 days of the disaster, depending on the nature of disaster and the social and physical infrastructures available. In the acute phase, the main focus is on rescue and relief, after which the reconstruction phase starts. But, in our case, this ‘late phase’ started really late—only after a year did the government provide the initial support to build a house. It took nearly eight months to form the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to look after the reconstruction process. 

Delayed efforts

The reasons for the delay in reconstruction are well known—political uncertainty and wrangling. Even after the authority was set up, it took a long time to bring in the human resource. Though some attempts have been made in the last two to three months, the delivery of services to the victims has still not been efficient and effective. 

As compared to many developing nations that were not able to manage the rescue and relief efforts during great disasters, Nepal initially showed some capability in coordinating multiple agencies and soliciting support from the international community. It  quickly conducted the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which is a well-developed document. Until then, there was a broad unity government as major political parties had come together for the purpose of formulating the constitution. Such unity is essential in managing a big disaster. 

But after the formation of the KP Oli-led government, partisan politics exacerbated the circumstances and delayed the formation of the NRA. Again, political wrangling made the workings of the NRA difficult in the existing bureaucracy, which inherently believes in a hierarchical structure, and then defines the ability and power of a person to make decisions and mobilise resources according to their status or class. 

Not the solution 

Now that the institutional set-up has happenned, there are again talks of a change in government, which will again delay the reconstruction works. In the changed political circumstances, the people already mobilised in reconstruction would not be able to work. It is likely that there will be a reshuffle at least at the upper level of the NRA. But then people who are thrown out could take a legal action against the government, and this could take a long time to get resolved. Due to political instability, this has been a trajectory of many institutions. This tendency could have been tolerated or overlooked in normal circumstances, but not in emergency situations like disasters. As a matter of fact, KP Oli should have let the people who had developed the PDNA and organised the international conference of development partners continue the work related to reconstruction, as they were professionals and were not entirely driven by different political ideologies.   

In the current circumstances, any change in government is not expected to expedite the reconstruction process or to solve other pertinent political problems like the Madhes crisis. But it will certainly bring another transition period and derail the delivery of services to the quake victims. Partisan politics might again emerge. 

Better option 

Despite some optimism at the beginning and people’s sympathy during the Indian blockade, this government has been unable to speed up the activities to help quake-affected households even after the blockade ended. It has also failed to interfere positively in matters that violated basic human rights of people like the arrest of journalist Kanak Mani Dixit or the deportation of a Canadian citizen. The tendency exemplified by these incidences is scary. This was rightly said by Pranaya Rana in his opinion piece that while Dixit has the influence to escape from injustice and the Canadian citizen has a passport to give him immunity, the common people do not have these protections. 

People have taken into account the inefficiencies of this government. As a result, this government has become unpopular within a short period of time. Nonetheless, it may not bode well for the country to change the government at this stage. Before doing this, politicians who want to come to power should show their strategies as to how they will be better in solving the problems that the present government has not been able to. Unless another party presents a credible alternative strategy, people should give one more chance to this government, but then pressure it to bring better outcomes within a given time frame. People are fed up with frequent changes in government without any purpose, causing unnecessary delays in this critical phase of reconstruction and recovery. 

Adhikari is a human geographer with an interest in development planning

Published: 18-05-2016 08:59

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