Sarita Shrestha/Republica A temporary settlement of quake victims is seen in Damgade in this recent picture. They have been living in this settlement since being displaced by quake from their home in the northern part of the district.
DHADING, April 25: Before the April 25 earthquake in 2015, Sun Bahadur Tamang of northern Dhading lived a happy life with his family. Though not prosperous, his family was living happily. The quake devastated his family's happiness and it homeless. He was one among thousands of people in the country to take shelter in makeshift huts right away. As days passed, quake victims gradually shifted to their own houses. Many of those whose homes were fully damaged started building new residences. The government announced housing grants and began distributing it in phases. Like other quake victims across the nation, Tamang was also hopeful that the government would help his family build a new house for them too. Four years down the line, his hopes are yet to materialize.
"Considering the situation in which my family is stuck since the earthquake, I feel very unlucky. My family is still living in a hut," the local of Karang village laments. "And I don't know how many years more we will have to wait for having a house again." Apart from the earthquake, Tamang was further victimised by landslides. The land on which he planned to build his new home was swept away by a landslide. It left him not only homeless but also landless for building a new home.
"I would have taken some steps towards building a new home if the piece of land on which I planned to build the house was intact. But unfortunately, the landslide did not spare it. As such, I don't have a piece of land that is suitable to build a new home for my family. On top of all these, the government also did not understand the severity of my misfortune and has not extended any help to relieve my family," Tamang said.
The family has been living in a hut in Damagade, a few kilometers away from their original settlement, since the earthquake. They live in the area along with their neigbors who share similar stories. The land on which their village existed was made fragile by the quake, and it became prone to landslides. Fear of impending landslides forced the villagers to abandon the entire village. Since then, they have been living away from 'home' for the last four years. "We cannot go back to our village. We don't feel safe there. But since we don't have land that is suitable to build new homes, we are stuck here," Tamang said while speaking for all his fellow villagers.
Despite being rendered homeless by the earthquake, Tamang claimed that initially his name was not included in the earthquake victim list and deprived of state grants. Later, after he filled a complaint against the exclusion and was subsequently included in the list, that itself delayed the process of grant distribution. Then, he was provided Rs 250,000 by the government for building a new home. But as he did not have a suitable plot for building a new home, the grant did not quite help him.
"If the land on which I planned to build our new home had remained intact, the money government provided to me could have been of some help. I could have at least started the construction of our new home's foundation. And with the subsequent instalments of the grant, I would have completed its construction," he said. "But since I could not start with the construction work, following grants were not given."
There were two categories of earthquake victims: one, who lost only homes and another who lost even their land due to landslides. But at the beginning the government focused solely on the first type of victims and issued pledges to provide grants to them, leaving out the second type for a long time.
Considering the situation in which my family is stuck since the earthquake, I feel very unlucky. My family is still living in a hut. - Sun Bahadur Tamang, a quake victim
"When quake victims who had only lost their homes to the earthquake received the first instalment of the home grants, the government was yet to decide on a relief package for us. Assistance was provided to us much later," reports Tamang.
The great earthquake and aftershocks had severely hit 14 districts. Even in four years, the reconstruction process has not come to an end. There are still a considerable number of earthquake victim families who are still living in makeshift huts.
"Impoverished people like us have not been able to return to a normal life. Those who had a little property or received government support on time are already in tune with life," Tamang said.
Before the disaster, Tamang used to make bamboo furniture. Though there was no brisk business, it was enough to provide for his family. After the earthquake, he has not been able to resume his trade for a long time. Later, he started working again but has not been able to regain the speed at which he worked before the earthquake.
"Earlier, I had everything in the right place, good arrangement. I had to struggle for survival. After the disaster, many things went wrong, and with it, I also lost the balance and speed of my work," he said.
SP Tamang of Ganga Jamuna Rural Municipality is another quake victim whose story resembles that of Tamang. His most significant worries are also building a new home and getting a job to earn for his family. "When you don't have a proper place to live and a regular income to feed your family, life cannot be normal," he said. "The government did not give me grant on time as my name was included in the list initially. Now, I'm waiting for the following grants, but I don't know how long will that take. In addition to that I don't have a regular income," he added.
SP has received just Rs 50,000 as a home grant. That was given as the first phase of house grant. Upon completion of their home structures, while complying with government guidelines, further installments are released to quake victims. Quake victims are provided with a total of Rs 300,000 as housing grant and a subsidized loan of Rs 500,000.