EDITORIAL: Cold response

As regards the plight of the quake victims, the government and the opposition have not thought and acted with the same urgency as the situation demands

It has been over seven months now since the devastating earthquake of April 25 and several strong aftershocks after this. Yet, relief has to be reached to many of the earthquake affected, not to talk of their rehabilitation and reconstruction. The relief works should have been over by now, and reconstruction and rehabilitation should be going on in full swing, but sadly this is not the case. The victims are living in makeshift tents even now. Now as it is the winter season they could do well with warmer clothes and blanket. This plight has been blamed on the shortage of fuel and also the bickering between the two major political parties ---the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML as to who should be the chief executive officer of the National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR). It is essential to have such a body which would be spearheading the rehabilitation and reconstruction work, as well as the monitoring. Aid workers are trying now to distribute the emergency supplies before there is more snowfall that would block access to most villages. Unfortunately the NAR Bill has yet to be put before Parliament, which would have to pass it to make it into a law and make NAR operational. The passage of NAR Bill should not be made conditional on the fulfillment of other political demands, particularly constitutional amendment, as is being down now. The earthquake victims should not be victimized further.

The severe fuel scarcity and the hundreds of truck carrying essential supplies including fuel and medicines being stuck up at the border points has led to the worsening of the situation and added to the woes of those who have been affected by the quakes. The delay in setting up the NAR to distribute funds amounting to Rs. 200,000 as assistance for a house destroyed by the earthquake has caused immense hardships. It is truly sad that the winter supplies have not been able to reach those affected as they are still in warehouses and at present are not being used. So far those with houses damaged beyond repair have received only a paltry amount of Rs. 15,000 which does not meet the requirements. Those living in the shelters are having a tough time coping with the weather with the temperature dipping as low as two degrees Celsius and they have no required bedding and warm clothes to shield themselves against the winter cold.

Immediately after the earthquake, the government had appealed for aid from donors. It had also promised to provide swift reconstruction but this was not to be. Frustrated by the lack of the NAR some donor agencies, including the Asian Development Bank, have decided to go ahead by providing funds. The NAR should have been seeing to it that there was no corruption in this country which is plagued by it. As the foodstuffs have not been delivered to these mountain villages, they are having to live with acute scarcities of food items, including oil and vegetables. The earthquake has produced a real emergency situation, which has been aggravated by the blockade, but as regards the plight of the quake victims, the government and the opposition have not thought and acted with urgency. This has to change.

Unplanned work

While launching the online passport application on November 23, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa had said it would also be expanded in eight countries mainly in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, the counties where most Nepali migrants work, Hong Kong of China, Washington D.C., New York of the USA and London, the UK. These are the countries where concentration of Nepali diaspora is very high. The Kathmandu-based Department of Passport, however, has been successful in operating the online passport application system.Officials at the ministry said that they failed to expand the system within the time-frame due to lack of trained human resources abroad. They are still experimenting the reliability of the online system. It will take another two weeks or even more time to fully operate the system. The concerned authorities should not have announced the online application system without doing enough homework on it. The online application system was introduced to reduce the time for the passport application and to receive it from the 50 missions abroad.