NRA deadline leaves landless quake victims worried

Published On: March 9, 2017 07:47 AM NPT By: Narahari Sapkota

GORKHA, March 9: An earthquake victim in Barpak, Suka Bahadur BK, has received Rs 50,000 from the government as the first installment of house grant. Though the deadline set by the government to construct the foundation of house is closing in, he has not been able to even start the construction.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has issued a notice calling on the grantees to complete construction of the foundation by March 28. The authority has warned that those failing to do so would be blacklisted and thereby denied the pending installments. 
BK’s problem is that he does not have safe land for building the new house. The plot of land where his earlier house stood, which was destroyed by the earthquake of April 25, 2015, is fully cracked. Considering the land’s condition, building new house on it is not practical. BK, one among the 32 earthquake hit families, lament that the landless families cannot start building homes until they get safe land.

“We have been still living in the hut erected on government land. Though the state provided us grants for constructing new house, we don’t have land to do so. How to construct our house when we don’t have a piece of safe land?” he asked? 

The lack of land has kept victims like BK from constructing their house. The victims have been demanding clear directions from the government stating that in lack of land they cannot oblige with the NRA’s deadline.

Kumari Sunar, another landless victim, said NRA’s deadline is the only matter that the victims have been talking about these days. And still nobody has solution to the problem. 

“Authorities warn that action would be taken against us if we fail to construct the foundation of the house by March 28. But we do not have land. Our land is no more usable. Its fully cracked and these cracks are visible,” she said. She added that some of the victims never owned private land, and that they in are even more serious problem. 
Among those who were landless, some have been granted the money and some are not, reported Sunar. “Irrespective of owning land or not, we are all in a difficult position. We are extremely worried,” she further added. 

Another thing that is stealing the victim’s peace of mind is the proposed construction of a museum on the land where they have been living now. The government has planned to establish a museum at Barpak. 

“Earlier when they were talking of making museum here, we had heard that we would be shifted to other safer place. But nothing such has been done,” Sunar said.  

Over 400 families from Kerauja, northern part of Gorkha were displaced during the earthquake. Later, landslides eroded away their land too. Thus, they became landless as well. According to the victims, some pieces of land are still visible but those are too risky to inhabit. 

“We took the first installment but found no land to build house,” said Kajiraj Gurung of Kerauja. “The reconstruction authority itself has done study over it and termed our land as unsuitable for house construction. Entire Kerauja area is unsafe, the technicians say,” he added.

The victims stated that Rs 50,000 is simply not enough to think of a house. And it is out of question to start it anyway when they don’t have land. Kabita Ghale of Kerauja maintained that either the government must provide land or give them money to buy land.

“With such a meager amount, how can we buy land and construct house also? As our land has been claimed by the disaster, the resettlement plan should be not only about building house but also about availing land for it,” she said. 

Costly transportation is another issue in rural Gorkha. Mules are used to carry goods and construction materials. That comes at very heavy price, the victims lament. “How can we supply all the needed construction materials for concrete house when we do not have the transportation means?” Ghale asked. 

Over 1000 earthquake victim families of Kerauja, Gumda and Saurpani, among other areas, have been facing this problem. Though the reconstruction authority has underlined those areas as unsafe for settlement, it has not yet provided solution for addressing it. 
“There has been no clear decision on how to solve this problem. The authority has not told where those victims would be relocated, or how to resettle them,” said Roshan Shrestha, chief at the district’s Department of Urban Development & Building Construction.

District Administration Officer Jitendra Basnet said that in lack of policy guidelines they are helpless. “We cannot do anything or decide anything from the district. It’s like our hands and legs are tied up. Even though we understand the magnitude of the problem, we are not in the position to do anything about it unless the center gives us specific guidelines,” he said.

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