NRA's experiences over the years should be a big help in carrying out similar rehabilitation and reconstruction activities
Time and again, the government has extended the deadline for all those whose houses were destroyed in the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 to avail of the grant to build their homes. On July 2, the executive committee meeting of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) requested all the beneficiaries to complete their houses and receive the third and final tranche of the government's private housing grant by mid-November this year, an extension by four more months. It is, thus, in the interest of all those beneficiaries to apply for the grant, a total of Rs 300,000 in three tranches, before the NRA wraps up its work. According to the figures released by the NRA, as of July 1, 2021, there are a total of 858,282 private housing reconstruction grant beneficiaries, of whom the NRA has signed agreements with 95.4%, or 818,624 beneficiaries. Of them, 816,670 beneficiaries (95.4%) have received the first tranche; 727,328 (88.8%) the second tranche; and 665,233 (81.3%) the third tranche. This means that a substantial number – more than 150,000 beneficiaries with whom the NRA had signed an agreement – have not taken the third tranche of the grant.
There are reasons why some have not applied for the grants even after signing the agreements. The Rs 300,000 in grants in three phases is a paltry sum to build a house these days, especially in the urban centres.
Immediately after the destructive earthquakes of 2015, there was lot of talk that the government was providing housing loans at 2 per cent interest to be repaid over a period of 10 years. The calamitous earthquakes of April 25 and May 12, 2015 took the lives of nearly 9,000 people and destroyed 604,930 houses and partially damaged another 288,856. However, a cash-strapped government was heavily dependent on the donors for reconstruction and rehabilitation. So any funds to be justly divided among the beneficiaries largely depended on donor support.
The NRA must be credited for the transparency while distributing the grants. As a result, 611,241 (74.7%) houses have been constructed while another 146,153 (17.9%) are under construction. The NRA has also relocated families who were living in vulnerable areas to safer places or allowed landless beneficiaries to buy land to build a house. Those landless beneficiaries and beneficiaries living in vulnerable areas who have not been able to buy land for various reasons have also been asked by the NRA to complete land acquisition work by mid-September. During the last five years, the NRA has seen many challenges, from having to train masons to build the homes in the rural areas to sustaining the tempo of reconstruction and rehabilitation even during the current coronavirus pandemic that has been raging across the country for the past 18 months. The experiences that the NRA has been able to gather over the years should be a big help in carrying out similar rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in the country.
Following the devastating floods and landslides some weeks ago that swept away entire settlements in different parts of the country, the NRA's experience will prove valuable in their relocation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and quickly.
Act as per law
Vice-chairpersons of five rural municipalities in Rautahat district assumed office on Tuesday after being reinstated by the Supreme Court. The Election Commission had vacated their posts after CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had written to the EC, stating that they were elected to the posts on behalf of his party and recently defected to the UML.
However, a single bench of Justice Kumar Chudal reinstated them through an interim order. Dahal had written to the EC asking it to relieve them from their posts without citing any law governing the political parties at the local levels. In a federal structure, all tiers of government are independent of each other, and the Anti-Defection Act enacted by the Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies cannot be applied to the local levels. That is why the Supreme Court stayed the EC's decision to relieve them from their posts. All the 753 local levels, which function independently as per the constitutional provision, need to endorse the Anti-defection Act separately following the guidelines of the federal government should the political parties intend to prevent their elected representatives at the local levels from defecting to other parties.
A version of this article appears in the print on July 8 2021, of The Himalayan Times.