Relief packages elude the poorest of the poor

Kathmandu, April 9

Relief packages distributed by ward offices and meant for those living on the margins of society have eluded the majority coming from remote districts and working as daily wage earners for several reasons.

Many do not have citizenship certificates. Nor can they produce reference letters from their landlords. Worse, sometimes while they go about their regular routines they are not even aware of the relief material distribution happening at ward offices.

Take for example, Jagat Maya Tamang, 76, who works as a tea vendor on the banks of the Bagmati River in Shankhamul. She lives some three kilometres from the ward office in Old Baneshwor. She claims that the ward office provided relief packages more than five times in the past two weeks. “But, we never get prior information about the distribution hours,” she said.

“Once we heard from our friends and neighbours about the packages being distributed at the ward office. By the time we got there on foot it was too late. They were done with that day’s relief distribution and we returned empty-handed,” Tamang said. Some 15 families from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh residing in a squatters’ settlement on the banks of the Manohara river are among a large number of the needy who have been deprived of relief packages.

Some foreigners yesterday gave Manohara Thimi Municipality a truck load of relief packages to support over 200 squatters living in that settlement, but the 15 families were left out.

Often, these left out groups are the most needy, irrespective of where they come from or whether they possess citizenship certificates or not. In normal times, they collect garbage and help keep the city clean while they earn a living.

Anjana Devi Madhikarmi, deputy mayor of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, said the municipality did not intend to discriminate against anyone during such times. “There might have been problems while listing names of the needy though,” she said, adding, “We’ll rectify our mistakes, if any.”

Spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ishwar Man Dangol said the rules governing distribution of relief materials required the beneficiaries to produce citizenship certificate, birth registration or recommendation from the concerned communities to ensure that only qualified beneficiaries got the assistance in these grim times.

He said the metropolis was considering providing free meals to the poor from certain places of the wards to ensure that nobody would have to go hungry. He said the metropolis had received applications for relief even from those who did not qualify for assistance. “Those employed by the government and private agencies do not qualify for assistance and yet people who are job holders have sent their applications through their spouses,” Dangol said.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.