EDITORIAL: Tall order

Though the local bodies of the affected 24 districts have been told to distribute the winter relief packages within a week, it seems a tall order

It is eight months since the major earthquake and the aftershocks devastated several districts of the country. But the plight of the earthquake victims has been reduced to living in hope. Whether it was the Congress-led coalition government or the CPN-UML-led present coalition government, it has been found to be deficient in providing timely and adequate relief to the earthquake victims. The present government had announced that, apart from providing assistance as promised earlier, it would give rupees ten thousand to each family to buy winter clothes. This was in view of the fact that most of the victims have been still living in tents or, in some cases, even open spaces in the middle of winter. This was a small but a positive gesture from a government which assumed power amid the ruthless blockade of the entry of the country’s imports through its main land border points, which has caused acute shortages of many products, including the vital supplies of petroleum products. The present government’s real difficulty in discharging earthquake-related work should also be viewed in this light. But the delay in forming the National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR) due to petty political interests can hardly be defended.

At stray places, they have just started distributing the pledged 10,000 rupees. Now that the major bite of winter has started wearing off, by the time the winter relief packages have reached virtually all the eligible victims, summer will have already started. This means that though the victims may eventually get the promised 10,000 rupees, the purpose for which the money is to be distributed will have largely been defeated. Several quake victims, particularly children and elderly people, are already reported to have died from the effects of the intense chills which they could not beat in the unsafe conditions they had to live in. The quake victims, it seems, will have to fend for themselves during the remaining part of the winter.

Higher authorities have a habit of telling the lower agencies or officials to distribute relief in time and without delay. But the major test of the efficiency and sincerity of the government as a whole lies in the result. By this token, there are many areas which leave a lot to be desired – food coming in for relief purposes are rotten, medicines have outlived their last date, the relief packages have reached the victims without some of the things missing, and so on. Mismanagement on the one hand and massive corruption at various levels down to the grassroots level on the other has made the situation doubly worse. But lack of progress in relief and reconstruction cannot always be put down to the blockade; some way out should be found. The importance of the elected local bodies comes to the fore when it comes to the role of these bodies in discharging vital work, like distributing relief. At present there is no local body accountable to the people; it is only the employees. Though the local bodies of all the affected 24 districts have been told to distribute the winter relief packages within a week, it seems a tall order. At the last moment everything cannot be done. From now on, the government will have no excuses for not properly doing its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction works.

Don’t drink and drive

The crackdown on drink-driving by the traffic police has proved to be effective in reducing the number of such cases. Equipped with breathalyzers, the men and women wearing blue measure the alcohol content of the breath of the vehicle drivers from a breath sample. Considering the successful manner in which the traffic police are handling such cases appreciation from various quarters, including the Nepal Alcohol Policy Alliance, a body that deals with human rights and alcohol control, offered a civil felicitation to the Metropolitan Police Division for the wonderful work it has been doing in reducing drink-driving. Since the police began checking the alcohol content in the blood of the drivers this has discouraged driving after partaking of alcohol.

Furthermore, while dealing with drink-driving the police have also succeeded in reducing domestic violence against women. Moreover, since the ban on drivers after drinking alcohol is in force this has led to the reduction of tragic accidents. Meanwhile, the traffic police should continue with their commendable drive in dealing with drink-driving cases.