A group of women from Launiya VDC, Saptari gather for a women’s group meeting in this recent picture.
RAJBIRAJ, Jan 18: Bindulal Chaudhari, secretary of Manraja VDC of Saptari district, disappeared for around four months with the VDC’s social allowance budget of Rs 2.2 million. His disappearance forced locals to seek his whereabouts and a delegation reached out to District Development Committee (DDC) with the complaint. DDC looked out for him but failed to locate.
“We tried to locate him but after failing to do so we sought help from the police. The police located him. He confessed, pleaded sorry, distributed the allowance and was allowed to let go,” Dhirendra Kumar Yadav, administrative officer at the DDC, informed.
Similarly secretary of Rajbiraj VDC, Pradip Lal Karna, went missing too for months, with the allowance budget. He came in contact after the service seekers complained of his disappearance to several departments. Just like Chaudhari, Karna also apologized, distributed the allowance and was forgiven.
Dambar Bahadur Karki, secretary of Malhaniya VDC has not appeared at the office for around 21 months. In his absence and the budget provided, distribution of social allowance has remained in limbo. Twenty one elderly people and 94 Dalit children, among others are entitled to receive the allowance.
Suresh Yadav, a colleague of Karki, said that the latter’s absence has made it very difficult to run the office. “On the one hand, in his absence we cannot not take any decisions and carry on our duties and on the other hand, we are verbally abused by the public for not distributing the allowance,” he said. Apart from that, their office had procured motorbike and other goods on credit. Suresh claimed that as the credit is not cleared by Karki it has been tough to handle the shopkeepers. “Around Rs 250,000 was allocated for the motorcycle but the credit has not been paid. We don’t know where the motorcycle or Karki is. He has left the office in a beg mess.”
The story is almost the same in most VDCs. In absence of people’s representative in local bodies, irregularities have become quite common in VDC offices. According to locals, corruption has shot up due to the lack of people’s representatives.
Women in Sapari vented ire for the government’s inability to construct necessary infrastructures for availing safe delivery services for expecting mothers. For the past five fiscal years, locals have been receiving promises of such facility but the plan has not materialized.
Apart from that lack of people’s representatives has affected development of other infrastructures also. Roads that need serious repair remain unattended to and locals need for constructing new road tracks remain in limbo.
“During emergency, there is no access to hospital. There are no roadways, no ambulances, doctors,” complained Hiradevi Mandal, a resident of Tilathi VDC. “How much budget is allocated for our VDC, how is that used, where is the budget spent? We never know this.” She said that though everyone is aware about the sluggish pace of development in the villages, no one is addressing these concerns.
In Tilathi VDC, around 200 houses are inundated by floods every monsoon. Affected people and other locals always complain about it to the village council but nothing is done to address this concern, Babu Narayan Mishra, a resident of the VDC, said. “Nobody has shown willingness to shoulder the responsibility of addressing our concerns. Year after year our houses submerge in floods for days, people are displaced,” he added.
Mishra opined that this is due to lack of people’s representatives at the VDC and dishonesty among VDC staffs. “Because of these, corruption has soared across VDCs in the district. I believe that development in a district like Saptari would have progressed well in short time if the allocated budget was spent well.”
Not only the public, but officials at the local bodies believe that there should be full-fledged village development committees in order to keep things smooth. “Work of a jumbo committee of 51 people has to be done by a single secretary. This is not doing any good or favor to us,” said Ram Kumar Yadav, a VDC secretary. “A secretary handles work related to 27 ministries. How can you expect them to provide quality services?” he questioned.
He further complained that appointment of local residents as officials in the VDC also creates problems sometime. When local residents work at the VDC, they tend to be unprofessional, he shared. “They do not coordinate or cooperate with you. Some even challenge their seniors’ orders,” he stated. “For government service to be smooth and development to take place, there is no option of holding local level elections and having people’s representatives in place,” he concluded.