EDITORIAL: Inconsistent policy

Providing Rs. 50,000 to those whose houses were not damaged so badly and an additional Rs. 400,000 for purchasing land at safer places on top of Rs. 200,000 is good

Sixteen months after the devastating earthquakes rocked the nation in April and May last year the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is now mulling over providing Rs. 50,000 to those people whose houses were damaged but fit for living in after repairs and to others who have lodged complaints that they had been left out from the beneficiary list.

For this purpose, the NRA is preparing to amend the guideline to be approved by the Steering Committee headed by the Prime Minister.

It is learnt that over 150,000 households from 11 worst hit hilly districts except the Kathmandu Valley have lodged complaints saying that they had been left out from the survey carried out by the NRA.

If the left out households and others whose houses were slightly damaged but could be lived in after repairs or retrofitting were to be provided Rs. 50,000 each, the NRA will have to cough up an additional Rs. 7.5 billion.

NRA executive chief Sushil Gyewali has said the amount would be provided for repairs and retrofitting of those houses which had not suffered much damage.

NRA has listed as many as 531,937 households as quake victims and it has already signed a first installment of a grant agreement of Rs. 50,000 with 395,988 households each so far.

The NRA which is the sole body to provide grant assistance for the reconstruction works has also instructed the local authorities, including the Land Reforms Offices, to facilitate the land ownership registration process to those people who had not acquired the official document till date.

The NRA will reach a grant assistance agreement once those families acquire the land ownership certificates from the concerned offices.

The NRA had to make changes in its guidelines after many quake survivors complained that they had been denied the government largesse due to the absence of proper land ownership papers.

The authority has also made some changes in its original guideline.

Instead of developing an integrated settlement for displaced families the NRA is mulling over providing additional amount – approximately Rs. 400,000 – to each of the quake survivors for purchasing land near the villages where they had been living for long.

NRA found that providing cash for the purchase of land is much cheaper than developing an integrated settlement not liked by the quake victims.

The idea of providing Rs. 50,000 to the owners whose houses were not damaged so badly and an additional Rs. 400,000 for purchasing land at safer locations on top of Rs. 200,000 is appreciable.

But the question arises why the NRA took so long to review its guideline prepared after much consultation with experts and stakeholders.

Another question is, how the authority officials can determine that a person’s house had suffered the damage as s/he has already repaired or retrofitted their houses immediately after the quake.

It would have been great relief to them had this decision been taken in the initial stage. Most of the people whose houses had suffered minor damage did not get any official papers marking the houses being damaged.

Such inconsistency on the policy guideline will not augur well for those who need the government assistance.

Not for parking

Pavements have been made for pedestrians, especially where vehicular traffic is heavy.

However, hardly anybody seems to be concerned when vehicle owners use them to park their vehicles. A case in point is the Maitighar area where there are auto workshops that repair motorbikes on the pavements.

There are about six such workshops, and the motorcycles are parked on the pavements without qualms.

As a result, the pedestrians have no other option than to walk on the streets and risk being run over by vehicles, particularly those running at high speed.

The irony is that there is a traffic police post in this area, yet it has done nothing to remove such workshops.

Moreover, the pedestrians also face obstruction when construction materials are illegally piled on the pavements.

Roadside shops display their wares on the pavements as well as the street vendors. It is not clear who is responsible for this situation.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan says the Traffic Police are responsible for overseeing that pavements are not used by vehicles for private purposes.

The concerned should be aware of the necessity of the pavements to be used by pedestrians only.