By Deepak Gajurel
As Nepal prepares to switch from rescue and relief to reconstruction and rehabilitation, irregularities at various levels have begun to surface. Nepalis from various walks of lives have been reported to have been involved in one or another kind of irregularity, which include, government ministers, lawmakers, political leaders/workers, government employees, non-governmental organizations, social workers, and many others.
Ministers and their assistants are reported to be indulged in embezzlement of relief materials meant for earthquake victims. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat's personal aide (PA) Ramesh Mahat has been implicated in the embezzlement of corrugated roofing sheets meant for the quake victims. (Annapurna Post Daily May 31, 2015).
Irregularities have also been recorded by international organizations. "… while some families had secured more than one tarpaulin, others had none. Residents said that only those with muscle (meaning political connections) were able to get them," Amnesty International said in its latest report. ((https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ASA31/1753/2015/en/)
Irregularities are also recorded to have been done by international relief organizations. World Food Program distributed substandard rice to the earthquake victims, and authorities were forced to issue public notice not to consume rice given out by WFP. (Nagarik News, May 20, 2015)
Corruption guided politics
It seems that everyone is trying to get some bites in the name of earthquake relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Nepal government has set up a centralized fund to collect cash from domestic as well as foreign donors. Government estimates that around 200 billion rupees will be needed for reconstruction and rehabilitation, while international aid agencies have estimated it to the line of one trillion Nepali rupees.
Prime Minister, ministers, political leaders and almost all government officials have been appealing for cash donation. But nobody seems listening this appeal. Government officials have been speaking to the media that international donors are only pledging but not donating. Finance Minister Mahat the other day accused media for negatively reporting that discouraged donors.
No matter what Nepali finance minister is saying, reality speaks entirely a different story. Nepali politicians have created an environment of mistrust. Nobody, Nepali as well as outsiders, seems believe that cash donated to Nepali government fund would be utilized properly.
Nepali politicians' past history of corruption and gobbling everything has played an important role here. This has again been repeated by the politicians of Nepal even in the aftermath of this major disaster. Nepal government had issued 'directives' to all government agencies, local bodies and other relief organizations that all relief/reconstruction activities are to be carried out through the decision from "All Party Mechanism" at all levels (from Center to Village Units) where such Mechanisms are at work since last 15 years, with no people's representatives.
This means that nothing is going to happen on the basis of reality, scientific facts and logic. And politicians at all levels are prepared to "Share and Gobble" all resources in the name of the victims. Gobbling of relief materials and funds, by local politicians, is already rampant at places, even in the capital city, according to media reports.
Help in Cash or Kind?
Our best friends beyond the international borders probably have smelled all these scenarios. Thus some of our friendly nations have offered Nepal government to 'do everything' for helping Nepali people in the time of need.
Our immediate neighbors China and India have publicly, and repeatedly, offered that they are eager to work for reconstruction and rehabilitation. These countries are asking us for our priority and sectors to reconstruct.
Chinese President has gone little further to express his love towards Nepali people when he sent one of his ministers to meet Nepali Prime Minister and other officials to offer Chinese people's help for Nepal.
Reading between the lines, Beijing is offering us not a single dollar in cash, but is eager to reconstruct everything we lost in recent earthquake.
Similarly, Indians too have offered to rebuild our cultural heritages. Here again, Delhi is also not signaling any cash.
The great tragedy lies here; help in kind or in cash? Nepali government has not even started to prepare a proposal as requested by Beijing or Delhi. Yes, we have to be careful on conditions, quality and other aspects of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
It is obvious, and almost proved, that Nepali politicians are eagerly waiting to embezzle in the name of Nepali people, as they have been doing since last 10 years, in the name of peace. Billions of dollars in foreign aid have all been gobbled by these politicians. The essence of that money can be clearly felt in their lifestyle, if one likes to feel.
Are Nepali people, and our foreign friends, ready to repeat the same story?