Earthquake safety day

Awareness rally fails to impress quake-victims

Published On: January 16, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Narahari Sapkota

GORKHA, Jan 16: When NGOs and INGOs reached out to the earthquake victims in Gorkha in the immediate aftermath of the Gorkha earthquake, they were delighted with all the tall promises these organizations made. They were hopeful that these organizations would fulfill all the tall promises they made and that life would return to normalcy pretty soon. 

Over one and half year down the line, neither the government nor these organizations have been able to materialize those promises fully. On Sunday, like elsewhere across the nation, the 19th National Earthquake Safety Day was observed here also with much fanfare. 

In this context, what mostly upset the long frustrated quake victims was the apparent fierce competition between NGOs and INGOs to showcase their banners and placards in the rallies. Considering the sluggish progress made by these organizations in materializing the promises they made and assisting them to get rid of the miserable living conditions, some quake victims could not take the celebration happily.

“It looked ironic to the people that the organizations, which could not show any tangible results even in so many months of earthquake, suddenly gathered today, and marched across the streets wearing white T-shirts and holding banners,” noted Mohanlal Shrestha, president of Elderly Civil Society Association, Gorkha. “Earthquake victims are still living in miserable conditions in tents and huts. They are shivering with cold and suffering from cold related ailments. They don't have house to live and their life is yet to return normalcy. Naturally they were not impressed with the fanfare.” 

Shrestha added that he was not happy with the attitude of the government offices and the way they deal with NGOs and INGOs. “It is due to the inability of the government to deliver its services as well to keep the non-government organizations under check that the fund meant for the earthquake victims are used in fanfare,” he noted. “These organizations become so visible to mark occasions. Nobody is working honestly for the quake victims,” he added.

Huge rally with participants all clad in white t-shirts printed with quake awareness slogans, marched through the streets. Some were neatly attired in these t-shirts while some others were wearing it on without taking off their sweaters. 

Government officials, police and army officers, members of NGOs and INGOs and leaders of several political parties were part of this rally. But, locals along with the earthquake victims witnessed. 

Local keenly noticed the slogans written on these t-shirts that advocated for building quake-resistant infrastructures. These T-shirts also accommodated abbreviated names of 13 different organizations including that of UN Nepal, CRS, Oxfam, World Vision International, Care Nepal and Save the Children, while the program was jointly organized by District Administration Office (DAO) and Department of Urban Development & Building Construction (DUDBC). 

The DAO was provided with a budget Rs 10,000 and DUDBC with Rs 30,000 for organizing such program. However, the government bodies did not hesitate to seek support from NGOs and INGOs. Under condition of anonymity, an official at the DAO stated that I/NGOs are more than happy when they can co-organize functions with the government as that makes it easy for them to draw and spend fund under several heads.
“The government bodies could mark the program on their own with the budget. It was not necessary to advertise NGOs that way,” the official said. “Two banners and low budget tea service would be enough. But the government took help of more than a dozen organizations to celebrate it,” he added.

Roshan Shrestha, chief at the DUDBC expressed ignorance over the details of the budget contributed by the participating I/NGOs. “The budget was spent for printing T-shirt, banners and several other things. I am not clear how much have been provided by the participating I/NGOs for these,” he said. “Though the government has allocated some budget for our office and the DAO, the budget itself is yet to be released,” he said.

The program was criticized for not ensuring the participation of the locals. “On top of that, earthquake victims were not participated in the program. It all looked so superficial,” said Bhimlal Shrestha, president of Federation of Nepalese Journalist (FNJ), said “They walked around the town, showed-off their t-shirts, flashed their placards and then entered into the administration office hall and celebrated the day,” he added. 

Gorkha was among the worst hit district. Except for a few families, most of the earthquake victims continue to live in makeshift houses, though nearly two years have passed. 

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