The big earthquake of 7.8 magnitudes in April 2015 in Nepal killed more than 8,400 people, injured 15,000 and destroyed and damaged an estimated 800,000 houses and buildings and 8,000 schools. In spite of having prior knowledge and orientation that Nepal is a seismic prone country and the risks it faces from earthquakes are high, the coalition government machinery, including political parties and their top leaders, have been criticized for their feeble actions, irregularities and ineffectiveness in launching emergency rescue and relief operations and lack of emergency preparedness plan.
If any political change in the government is desperately needed, it should not be just as for the sake of “changing the hat” or “filling and branding old wine in the new bottle” and becoming “shareholders” – wholeheartedly and industriously engaged with accountabilityAlthough plenty of emergency relief materials such as tents, food and medicines were made available by the international donors, local business communities, and various NGOs and INGOs, fast track coordination, mobilization and management initiatives on the part of coalition government and political entities were lacking for immediate response to the catastrophes. Presence of government officials and their response team, including political leaders and Constituent Assembly members, in many quake affected zones was deficient or minimal. The government machinery, including bureaucrats and political entities had to excessively depend on emergency support services on international rescue and relief teams and not least on Nepal Army (NA), youths, and business communities, who provided their best support to the victims. The role of the media (print and TV channels) was significant. NA personnel and former Maoist combatants worked hand-in-hand in building temporary shelters for the victims in some places, which should be continued. It is lamentable that a lot of emergency relief materials such as tents, food, water and medicine could not be transported to the victims in time; and tones of food items were wasted; tents were misappropriated and misused in bulk; inventory of relief materials at the airport warehouse not kept; tax exemption on import of relief materials misused; and international rescue and relief teams were marooned at the airport while many victims were unattended for weeks making the lives of quake victims more painful and deplorable. Public opinion is that all these glitches led to loss of trust in the coalition government and many political parties, including top leaders. Currently, the rehabilitation of victims is in a shadow and diluted in the constitutional and consensus government issue debates and deadlock thereof. There are no plans, programs and actions for the victims. Commitment and competence of political parties and their top leaders and not least of the giant coalition government has been questionable once again since their failure to promulgate the Constitution by the deadline in spite of taking two terms of the Constituent Assembly (CA), spending huge amount of time, energy and resources at the cost of acute poverty and the pace of national progress in the last seven years. Amidst quake catastrophes and the serious setbacks the country has been loaded with, the political “power game” in the country has again erupted and each time the capability of the PM is questioned. In the name of so called unified or consensus the government is at a situation when there has been already a giant coalition government run by majority parties (NC and UML) and other parties making their contributions from their respective spheres, as always happens in a multiparty democracy. There seems to be no other fast track solution other than for all to work in unison and unity. Any departure from this reality could also mean lack of “self-confidence” or “hitting the bush” or inviting chaos. If any political change in the government is desperately needed, it should not be just as for the sake of “changing the hat” or “filling and branding old wine in the new bottle” and becoming “shareholders” – wholeheartedly and industriously engaged with accountability - and not “chair-holders” is the critical demand of the hour. Quake catastrophes should be taken as an “opportunity” as top leaders say for reconstructing a new Nepal, given the anomalies and contradictions, including the “run” for political power games. With victims in despair, it seems ridiculous. Lack of good governance, corruption, time and cost overrun in infrastructures, hyper consumer price index, absence of elected local government, impunity, and political instability have been the serious concerns of the international donors as well as the civil society at large. The more intricate and incapable the government is, would mean more chances that many of the potential donors might refrain or not contribute and cooperate adequately. Deeper understanding, nobility, solidarity and mutual cooperation of all 601 CA members and political parties and their top leaders and the government is needed more than ever before. Short-term and mid-term realistic plans and programs with specific timeline and responsibilities and accountability are needed. The PM-headed high powered reconstruction panel to be formed as proposed should exercise its absolute authority for effective and expeditious implementation without involving the Ministries which already have their regular portfolios and accountability. The writer is a Grants Business Management and Integrated Community Development Professional