The criteria set for the assistance and the loan have been so bureaucratic that most of the people far away from power centres are likely to be deprived of this plan

It has been five months since the devastating April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks left more than 9,000 people dead in 31 hilly districts in the central region and damaged public and private property worth over Rs. 700 billion. With a view to rebuilding the damaged infrastructure, including the historic monuments and temples, and private houses, the government held an International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction on June 25, one month after the quake, and also brought an ordinance to this effect on June 22, three days before the conference. But the ordinance could not be replaced with a Bill due to fierce opposition from within the ruling CPN-UML and main opposition Unified CPN-Maoist. It had envisaged forming a National Reconstruction Authority with a National Consultative Committee and Central Steering Committee, both headed by prime minister. Th international community had pledged to provide over US$ 4.4 billion which was more than expected by the government.

In its annual fiscal budget the government has earmarked Rs. 74 billion to be spent through a law which was supposed to replace the ordinance. As the replacement Bill could not pass through the parliament it is unclear as and when the allocated budget will be utilized for the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure and rehabilitation of over 8,00,000 people rendered homeless. In this background, the International Development Partner Group (IDPG) in Nepal has called on the government and the parliament to expedite the finalization of legislation aimed at the reconstruction process. The reconstruction and rehabilitation works cannot be pushed ahead without the law in place. IDPG has rightly pointed out the need for the formation of the authority so that the allocated fund for the reconstruction, rehabilitation and relocation of the thousands of families can be best utilized.

IDPG is a body consisting of development partners, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other countries, who have pledged to support the reconstruction process. As per the ordinance the government had also appointed Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission Govind Raj Pokhrel as CEO of the authority. But it could not function in the absence of law concerning the reconstruction work. The government should be blamed for not being able to take the major parties, including the opposition, into confidence when the ordinance was brought one week before the commencement of the budget session. IDPG has stressed the need to pass a Bill at the earliest as the National Reconstruction Authority has to spend US$ 6.7 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation works within five years. The government had pledged to rehabilitate or relocate all the affected families before the onset of monsoon. But it failed to do so due to lack of institutional capacity. The immediate relief assistance of providing Rs. 200,000 and a soft loan of Rs. 2.5 million in the Kathmandu Valley and Rs. 1.5 million in the hilly districts to each of the affected families have remained only promises. The criteria set for the assistance and the loan have been so bureaucratic that most of the people far away from power centres are likely to be deprived of this plan.

Women in trouble

Many Nepali women and girls are trafficked to India and also to other countries. They are being subjected to the worst form of slavery. Recently, after the major earthquake on April 25 and several strong quakes in its aftermath human trafficking has increased by as much as 50 per cent. The authorities are keeping a close watch on the quake affected areas, makeshifts camps where the earthquake victims stay and also transits of the capital city and the international borders, but they have not succeeded in curbing the heinous activities of the evil traffickers. Just the other day two alleged human traffickers were arrested in Kathmandu and seven women who were being trafficked to Iraq via New Delhi were rescued.

The women and girls are usually trafficked by the unscrupulous traffickers luring them by saying that they would be provided with lucrative jobs and make a lot of money. Meanwhile, the police have rescued more than a 100 women and girls who were being trafficked abroad in the guise of rescue and also rehabilitation after the big earthquake.