GORKHA, July 19: When the devastating earthquake hit the country on April 2015, around 58,000 people in Gorkha had received the red card for damaged houses in the beginning. Since then, the number of victims has only grown. Every time the reconstruction authority calls for applications for the missed-out victims, a significant number of people queue up with applications. So far, 63,000 households in the district have already received Rs 50,000 as the first installment of the reconstruction grant. And 53,000 of them have built houses and received the full grant.
According to Jiwan Jyoti Shrestha, president of FNCCI Gorkha, the ever-growing number of quake victims is due to poor record-keeping of the victims in the beginning and poor follow up later. "We have instances where the son, the father and the mother - all three - have separately claimed to be quake victims to digest the grant," he said. "Due to the lack of the exact details, the reconstruction authority is being fooled."
As the epicenter of the earthquake was Barkap of Gorkha, the settlements in and around the village were badly affected. People were greatly affected. However, it was later noticed here and even in other districts that people showed artificial splits in their families just to claim the post-quake relief and grants.
"In the four years since the quake, this trend has continued. There might be very few genuine victims who missed out in the list in these many years," said Shrestha.
The records at the District Project Implementation Committee of the reconstruction authority shows 65,000 households in the list of beneficiaries. Except this, when the authority conducted the final survey of the affected families in June this year, an additional 12,246 people submitted applications. If they are included in the list of victims, the number of victims will reach 77,000.
"If there is nothing wrong, why is the number of beneficiaries rising?" Shrestha questioned while speaking at an annual evaluation program of the reconstruction authority.
Adding that there are many instances where the members of the same family have separately registered themselves in the list of beneficiaries, he said such cases should be investigated.
Upon recommendation of the ward offices, the technicians from the reconstruction authority prepared the list of beneficiaries. They were responsible for certifying the houses too. As the local representatives report, there are still some victims who have not yet been included in the list. Though the last survey in June was told to be the final survey by the reconstruction authority, now some more names are there to be added, according to Ishwar Pandey, chairperson of Bhimsen Thapa Municipality. "We still get phone calls, applications from different areas that their names are missing in the list," he said.
The settlements with fewer houses before the disaster no more look that spacious. New houses are on the rise. Harisharan Acharya, a lawmaker of Gandaki Province commented that people are making one-room houses just to claim the grant. "There are many houses which are not built according to the government standard. At many places, there are just one room houses which people have built just to get the grant," Acharya said.
Meanwhile, 170 people who earlier claimed to be quake victims have returned the amount they had taken after it came to light that their houses were not damaged. According to Ram Sharan Acharya, chief of the reconstruction grant unit in Gorkha, some of them had taken the first installment of Rs 50,000 while others had received the second installment as well. "A total of 170 people have already returned the grant amount. Some others are yet to do so," he said.