KATHMANDU, June 1: Seven months have passed since the government announced housing grants for the victims whose houses were damaged by last year's flooding in the tarai region. According to the announcement, they were to receive grants on par with the earthquake victims. But not a single flood victim has received the grant so far.
The government's indifference to the plight of the flood victims in 18 tarai districts is likely to force them to spend this year's monsoon in temporary shelters in subhuman conditions.
A total of 42,600 houses had completely collapsed while over 150,000 houses were partially damaged by the heavy flooding in the 18 districts of tarai region in August, 2017. The flooding claimed 134 lives. Two months after the disaster, the government had announced to provide Rs 300,000 to those whose houses were completely destroyed and Rs 100,000 to those whose houses were partially damaged by the floods.
The government had also formed a separate entity under the National Reconstruction Authority to distribute the grants to the flood victims. But so far, not a single victim has received the grant.
Chief of the Flood Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project Suman Kumar Karna said that his unit has not been able to distribute the grant as a draft directive to this effect has yet to be endorsed by the government and funds have yet to be allocated.
“The flood victims did not become priority of the government unlike the earthquake victims. I am the only employee in the unit, and so far not a penny has been allocated for the housing grant for the flood victims,” he said.
A Post-Flood Recovery Needs Assessment Report prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC) right after the flooding had estimated that the government needs to spend Rs 73 billion for reconstruction and restoration of livelihoods of the flood victims.
“After NRA said it cannot accommodate flood victims for grant distribution, I was asked to draft a separate directive and get it approved from the cabinet to kick off the grant distribution. But it has not been approved,” he said.
“I have personally met with ministers including the prime minister several times urging them to endorse the directive as soon as possible but they have turned a deaf ear to my request,” he said.
Now, the government is mulling over shifting the unit from the NRA to the home ministry.
Chief Executive Officer of NRA Yuba Raj Bhusal said that the steering committee of the NRA chaired by the prime minister has already decided to relocate the unit from the NRA to the Home Ministry. “So, no budget has been allocated to the unit. The government should make a new decision to shift the unit to the home ministry and start grant distribution,” he added.