Sarita Shrestha/Republica A quake victim's family in Dhading in their make-shift shelter in this recent picture.
DHADING, Sept 12: The great earthquake of April 2015 rendered Shahadev Jamarkattel of Gajuri Rural Municipality - 8 homeless. After his concrete house was badly damaged, his family started living in a tent. When the government announced relief to the quake victims, he also queued up to stake his claim. However, officials denied him stating that he was not qualified for it.
"They disqualified me for the relief stating that my house was not fully damaged. I was confused. I told them that my house was damaged to the extent that it could no longer be used. But they did not accept my arguments," lamented Jamarkattel.
Despite rejection, he reapplied for the grant and just as the officials had stated, he was not enlisted. Jamarkattel did not give up. He continued visiting local authorities urging them to reassess his home's condition.
"I went to the ward office and the CDO office. I requested them to visit and reassess the condition of my house. It was severely damaged," he told. But none of the offices have heard his plea so far. He continues to live in a hut with a plastic roof that has dilapidated over time. But he is still hopeful that one day he will get justice.
"I am a quake victims and I am hopeful that the government will reassess the status of my home someday, recognize that I am a genuine quake victim and avail the grant. I have faced many troubles but I still have hopes, "he stated.
This is the fourth monsoon, which the Jamarkattel family is spending in the cottage that barely keeps the rain from seeping in. He said that the hut has neither been able to protect his family from cold and wind.
"It is not just my story. Many victims like me are yet to get relief. Only a few of the victims have build new houses and moved in," he said.
He claimed there must be bigger number of victims like him who have failed to draw attention of the government while some fake victims have claimed the amount.
There are dozens of households in his ward who are still waiting for the grant. They are living in a poor condition in makeshift cottage.
We submitted requests to the Prime Minister for justice through the CDO many times. We were hoping that the Prime Minister's Office would respond to our pleas, but so far we have not heard back. -Shahadev Jamarkattel , quake victim, Dhading
"Around 60 households in our village have not received anything from the government though we are quake victims," Jamarkattel said. "But many households, who were not real victims, have received it," he added.
These victims have sent several letters to the prime minister urging for intervention through the Chief District Officer. "We submitted requests to the Prime Minister for justice through the CDO many times. We were hoping that the Prime Minister's Office would respond to our pleas, but so far we have not heard back,” Jamarkattel said adding that they were still hopeful of hearing back.
Lack of safe residence has made it very difficult for the victims. Harsh weather conditions have taken toll on their health. Children have stopped going to school. Women and elderly people have fallen sick several times. According to Jamarkattel, life has not come to a track since after the earthquake.
"If we had wealth, we would have perhaps built our own houses till now. But we are poorest of the poor and it's very sad that even the government has been neglecting our plight," he lamented. "We have been reaching out even to NGOs, but they also have disappointed us," he added.
Though 359 families from several wards of Gajuri Rural Municipality had complained of not receiving the relief amount, complaints of only 150 families have been addressed.
According to 60-year-old Ek Bahadur Shrestha of Gajuri Rural Municipality - 8, said that the victims who have been deprived of the grant by the government should launch protest. 'Or else, the government will never listen to them'.
"We have been trying to draw the government's attention since the last four years. But to these days they continue to neglect us," he said. "May be we should take to the streets too to have ourselves heard?" he added.
Shrestha was also rendered homeless by the earthquake. His efforts to claim the grant did not materialize. Initially officials had rejected his claim stating that his application did not adhere to the application process. In his subsequent attempts, he tried to follow the process, but all the times his application was rejected stating one or other fault, he claimed.
"No matter how much I tried, they did not enlist in grant recipient list. They gave one or the other excuse. I am paying price for the engineer's negligence," he said. For being enlisted in the list of grant recipients, engineers who inspect the house have to recommend a house owner's name to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) based on the results of their inspection. But that never happened in Shrestha's case.
"Engineer from the NRA had inspected my home. But seems he did not put up my name on the list. On the other hand, there are others, whose house is not destroyed much but their names were included in the list," he lamented.
Even other victims put the blame on engineers for depriving them of the grant and forcing them to stay in tents. They complained that the engineers enlisted houses with even minor damagers for the grant on the basis of personal preferences while omitting genuine quake victim families.