Kathmandu, April 5
The government has decided to rope in army to rebuild houses before the beginning of monsoon for those whose homes were ravaged by a massive storm in Bara and Parsa districts.
A meeting of the Cabinet held last evening decided to assign the Nepali Army to rebuild the houses based on the government’s People’s Housing Programme model. According to official figures, around 1,400 houses were damaged in the disaster that left 28 people dead.
The government has formed a five-member committee led by chief secretary of Province 2 to facilitate the reconstruction process. Other members of the committee include chief district officers of Bara and Parsa and representatives from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Urban Development, said Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota, who is also the government spokesperson.
The government’s move comes amid concerns that military’s increased involvement in development work was turning NA into a profit-making body.
However, the government states that the decision was taken considering the fact that it was important to complete the reconstruction swiftly given the monsoon was around the corner.
Province 2 Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut said the provincial government or local levels executing the reconstruction would result in delays due to their compulsion to follow due procedures, such as Public Procurement Act.
“This is an emergency situation and the need of the hour is to ensure shelter for the affected people before monsoon,” Raut told THT. “The army has the expertise and human resources needed to complete the task on time.”
Raut said the provincial government would arrange necessary funds from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and other sources. He said they would also welcome the central government’s aid.
The army has been involved in a number of development projects, including Kathmandu-Tarai Fast-track Road project. Observers have been raising concerns about the fact that the army does not fall under the jurisdiction of oversight agencies such as the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, which would result in non-transparency and financial discipline issues.
Maj Gen (retd) Binoj Basnyat, however, said the issue should be looked at from two perspectives. He said since it was a situation of emergency, the military’s role in reconstruction could be crucial and it was the duty of the military to help people during disasters. But he added that it should not lead to a trend whereby the army replaced the government’s mechanisms supposed to carry out development work.
According to Basnyat, if army is deployed on a regular basis to carry out such works the government’s actual implementing mechanisms would be demoralised and army’s professionalism would get dented.
“It’s a special situation and I welcome the government’s decision. The army should go there, build houses on time and come back,” said Basnyat. “However, this should not lead to the government assigning every development work to the army.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.