March 1, 2018 08:20 AM NPT
Quake grant hike not in list of outgoing Deuba govt's cabinet decisions
KATHMANDU, March 1: The announcement last month to provide an additional Rs 100,000 housing grant to earthquake victims, which was widely remarked upon at the time, is not in a list of cabinet decisions taken in the month of Magh (mid-January to mid-February) by the outgoing Deuba government.
As senior officials at the prime minister's office have expressed ignorance about any such decision, questions have been raised in various quarters whether the Deuba cabinet had really taken the controversial decision.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) on Wednesday made public a list of cabinet decisions taken by the outgoing government in Magh . But the 15-page list does not mention the decision to hike by an additional Rs 100,000 the quake grant for those whose houses were damaged by the 2015 earthquakes and for flood victims in various parts of the country.
The outgoing government on January 25 took the grant hike decision along with a decision to reduce the age for the elderly allowance from 70 years to 65 . The decisions list shows the government taking the decision on the elderly allowance but there is no mention of the grant hike.
Senior officials at OPMCM also expressed their ignorance of the last government taking a formal decision on the grant hike . “I really don't know about the last government taking any formal decision about the matter,” said a secretary at the OPMCM.
Similarly, spokesperson of the National Reconstruction Authority Yam Lal Bhusal said the previous government is not found to have taken any decision on the grant hike . “Even a month after the cabinet decision was announced, OPMCM didn't formally inform us. Upon inquiry, we learnt that no such decision was taken at all,” he said.
NRA officials had been expressing surprise over the delay by the government in formally informing them about the grant hike even weeks after the announcement, fueling doubts that the decision had really been taken.
Deuba remained prime minister for over three weeks after the grant hike announcement but it had not sent any formal notice to the NRA, according to Bhusal.
NRA had criticized the previous government for taking an unexpected decision on the grant hike without consulting it.
At an NRA steering committee meeting on February 10 chaired by Deuba, CPN-UML Vice Chairman Bhim Rawal and then finance minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki were engaged in a heated exchange over the housing grant decision.
Karki told Rawal at the meeting that the grant hike decision was taken as the previous amount was not sufficient for building a house. He also challenged Rawal and his party to go to the people against the decision if they thought the government had acted wrongfully.
When asked about this, former minister for commerce Meen Bahadur Bishwakarma said the cabinet had taken the decision but the new government might has hidden it.