We have made impressive achievements in political sphere in the last three years. Major political parties came together to promulgate the new constitution despite all odds. We have had five governments in between—one led by Sushil Koirala followed by KP Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sher Bahadur Deuba and now Oli again. The country successfully held three tiers of elections and we have embarked on institutionalizing federal democratic republic system. This is no small feat. But when it comes to plight of earthquake survivors we have not made much progress, for even today thousands of earthquake victims are languishing in makeshift tents struggling to rebuild their houses destroyed in April and May of 2015. There is visible lack of sensitivity on successive governments and National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to take forward reconstruction—life and death issue for earthquake survivors.
Kedar GC of Dukuchhap village of Lalitpur district is an example. GC received Rs 50,000 as first installment of housing grant only last month, the main reason why GC has not been able to start rebuilding his house. Like GC, many victims were provided housing grants rather too late and when they finally received it they had already accrued such a huge debt that the grants they received had to be used for repaying it. GC had to spend the money also for retrieving land ownership certificate which had been buried under the debris. So far, the government has distributed first tranche of grants to 767,705 households. But most grant recipients interviewed by Republica said they have not yet started reconstruction work. Besides more than 18,000 householders, who are either above 70 or disabled, have failed to rebuild because of old age and disability.
It is unfortunate that reconstruction has been plagued by multiple reasons, even as we near the third anniversary of the devastating earthquakes this month. As usual, there is going to be reiteration of commitment from the government and NRA but it will be meaningless if the earthquake survivors on the ground do not feel the change. The government and NRA need to put reconstruction as their top priority. As has been reported from earthquake affected districts, the survivors have not been able to rebuild houses mainly because of slow delivery of housing grants, long and cumbersome bureaucratic process the survivors have to go through to prove eligibility for grants and rising costs and unavailability of building materials among others. The government of K P Oli needs to be proactive and address all these issues without any delay. The survivors have suffered a lot—withstanding heat and cold and heavy rain in the last three years. They have waited expecting for the pledged assistance from government and NRA. They should not be made to wait any more. We need concerted efforts from all sectors to make necessary arrangements to ensure that all survivors rebuild their houses before this monsoon.