EDITORIAL: Redressal guideline

It is necessary to strengthen the institutional capacity of the VDCs so that no genuine quake victims are left out from the beneficiary list

Fifteen months after the devastating earthquake of 7.6 Richter scale in April and major aftershocks in May last year, the Executive Committee of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has just endorsed a guideline to redress the complaints from the earthquake survivors.

The guideline endorsed on Friday has set four layers to address the complaints.

Most of the complaints will be resolved at the VDC level headed by VDC secretary followed by district, sub-regional and central level. The complaints that cannot be settled at the VDC level will be referred to the district level headed by the Chief District Officer.

NRA’s head office will be the final authority to address the grievances of the quake victims and it has hired 22 trained engineers who will recommend the NRA to give the final verdict on issues related to compensation, financial assistance and other supports to be given by the government.

It is learnt that as many as 90,000 households have lodged their complaints with the VDC secretaries of the districts hit hard by the quake stating that they also deserve government aid to reconstruct their houses damaged by the earthquake.

The NRA has already conducted a survey of the 11 most affected districts except the Kathmandu Valley.

The NRA had assigned a non-governmental organization to conduct the beneficiary survey in all 11 worst affected districts where it listed 533,058 households as beneficiaries. The beneficiaries have been released 25 per cent (Rs. 50,000) of the total amount of Rs. 200,000 announced by the government for the reconstruction of the damaged individual houses.

The same organization  Health Research and Social Development Forum  will also conduct the beneficiary survey even in the Valley.

Some people familiar with the planning of the reconstruction work have raised eyebrows over the NRA’s decision to award the same NGO, which they said failed to conduct the survey properly, for conducting the beneficiary survey in the Valley where a large number of houses were also damaged.

A question can be raised over why over 90,000 households have lodged complaints demanding government aid even after the designated NGO conducted a beneficiary survey in the affected hilly districts.

It is the responsibility of the NRA to clarify why and how such a large number of households were not listed as the beneficiaries of the government assistance. It may be a good idea to set up four layers of complaint redressal guideline as a bottom up approach.

But there is high chance that it can be more bureaucratic, time consuming and the complainants will not be able to get their grievances addressed by competent authorities on time.

Considering the possible bureaucratic hassles the guideline must set a specific time frame for the VDC, district and sub-regional authorities to settle the complaints to be lodged by the quake victims.

The VDC level authority to be headed by VDC secretary who will be receiving more complaints than the higher level of authorities may be incapable of handling such a large number of complaints due to undue pressures from local leaders of major political parties.

It is, therefore, necessary to strengthen the institutional capacity of the VDCs so that no genuine quake victims are left out from the beneficiary list.

Weed cultivation

The police has destroyed marijuana plants allegedly growing in the wild in over 1,000 ropanis of land in two different places of Lalitpur Saturday.

However, we have every reason to believe that they are also being cultivated in many parts of the country, including the outskirts of the capital city.

The police say that they destroy these plants if they are found and informed about such illegal cultivation and those responsible for it are also punished as per the law.

The Narcotics Control Bureau along with the police and the locals had destroyed marijuana plants in over 4000 ropanis of land over a period of two years in the valley.

It is indeed a matter of concern that such clandestine activities like cannabis cultivation has not been halted although the law is supposed to take action against the defaulters.

It is believed that the cultivation of such hemp is rampant all over the country not to talk about those in and the vicinity of the capital valley, and many drug traffickers themselves are involved in its cultivation.