India looks at extending long-term support

KATHMANDU: India spent INR 6.40 billion (Rs 10.24 billion) on search, rescue and relief operations in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of April 25 in the country, according to Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae.

The Indian government had launched Operation Maitri soon after the quake hit Nepal, under which rescue teams and relief materials were sent to Nepal.

Since search, rescue and relief operations are now over, India has shown interest in supporting the country’s rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

“We are looking at supporting longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction (programmes) in Nepal,” the Indian envoy told an interaction on ‘Post-Quake Economic and Development Paradigm of Nepal’ here today.

As per Rae, there are four important elements to reconstruction.

“First is reconstruction of physical infrastructure. Another is reconstruction of businesses, such as trade and commerce that have been affected by the quake. At the same time, the country will also have to focus on social reconstruction, such as rehabilitation of children who have lost families. And last is putting in place mechanisms and systems that could minimise effects of disasters like that of April 25.”

To support Nepal’s reconstruction efforts, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier told Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat that he would send a senior minister to attend the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction — a donors’ conference being held by the government — even if he is not able to attend the conference.

Nepal is organising donors’ conference in the Capital, on June 25, to seek financial support from the international community to rebuild parts of the country ravaged by the earthquake and numerous aftershocks.

“India will make pledges (for financial assistance to Nepal) during the conference,” Rae said. But he asked the government to be prepared to face tough questions on fund absorption capacity from representatives of development partners taking part in the donors’ conference.

“Donors will strongly ask how the government will spend money (that they pledge for Nepal’s reconstruction),” said Rae. His statement comes at a time when the government has been facing criticisms for not being able to utilise available funds, leading to delay in project implementation.