Additional manpower for local bodies sought to expedite process
KATHMANDU, July 4:The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development have issued conflicting statements as to whether or not releasing the first installment of the grant amount for quake victims in the 11 worst-hit districts, is possible by mid-August, the deadline set by NRA.
While officials at NRA claim that 533,058 quake victims identified as eligible for the grant amount in the 11 districts will receive the first installment grant amount of Rs 50,000 by mid-August, officials at the ministry have clearly ruled out the possibility of completing distribution of this first tranche by the NRA deadline.
"We are already at the end of the fiscal year. The local authorities are quite busy handling so many administrative tasks that must be completed by mid-July. So, it's not possible to involve all local body staff solely in grant distribution," spokesperson of the ministry Purna Chandra Bhattarai told Republic. "On top of that, no effort has been made by NRA to deploy sufficient staff to tackle the additional work load. In this context, it is not possible for all the quake victims to get their first installment by mid-August."
Officials at the ministry said NRA's inability to ensure banking facilities in the quake-hit districts is also likely to further delay the first installment.
However, NRA officials reiterated that completing the task as per their plan was quite possible.
"We have expedited the grant distribution as per our plan to release the first installment by mid-August to all the victims eligible for the grant," NRA spokesperson Ram Prasad Thapaliya said.
Of the total 533,058 house owners, NRA has signed grant agreements with 199,608 victims but has released the first installment of Rs 50,000 to only 20,828 of them as of now. Though around 25,000 quake victims in Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhuli, Nuwakot and Makwanpur districts have signed the grant agreements, none of the victims have received the first installment yet because they have not been able to open bank accounts. NRA is yet to finalize banking arrangements in the quake-hit areas of the districts.
A week ago, NRA had asked the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development to speed up its work and complete the grant distribution by mid-August. Following this, the ministry on Sunday asked the district development committees of the 11 districts to focus on giving momentum to the grant distribution to meet NRA's deadline.
"We have asked our district level-bodies to speed up the grant distribution. But the process will not really gain momentum unless additional manpower is deployed at the local bodies and banking service are opened in areas where there are no banks," a top official at the ministry said, seeking anonymity.
As the signing of grant agreements between quake victims and the local authorities gathered pace but releasing the first installments failed to pick up, NRA last week decided to allow the district development committees to make the banking arrangements at the local level as per the local need and release the first installment as soon as possible. However, the initiative has not seen much progress.