KATHMANDU, Feb 3: As the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is gearing up its effort to distribute the second tranche of reconstruction grants to the earthquake victims in the 14 most-affected districts, Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries across the country have halted their works from Thursday.
They are demanding effective implementation of the government's previous decision to provide them an additional incentive of up to 50 percent of their monthly salary, affecting the already delayed reconstruction works.
With the protests, the process of distributing the second tranche of the housing grants to the earthquake victims have come to a grinding halt in the 14 earthquake-hit districts apart from other daily administrative works in the VDCs of 73 districts. As many as 6100 eligible victims have already applied for the second installment of Rs 150,000, according to the NRA.
The secretaries are the officials who carry out grant signing agreement with the eligible victims. Apart from signing the grant agreement, the VDC secretaries also accept and review the complaints registered by the quake victims who have been left out from the grant distribution process and take necessary steps to incorporate them.
“After our repeated requests to the concerned authorities to provide us the inventive on time were turned down, we decided to resume our protests from Thursday,” Chairman of VDC Secretaries Welfare Center Nepal, Damodar Rijal, told Republica. He said that they will not call off their protest unless the government provides the announced inventive to the VDC secretaries.
According to him, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) has not released the inventive to the secretaries since the past six months.
Last year, after the VDC secretaries had halted their works demanding incentive for the additional work they have been forced to carry out in the earthquake-hit districts, the ministry had decided to provide them an additional incentive of up to 50 percent of their monthly salary on the basis of their performance and workload. Along with the incentive, the ministry had also decided to provide additional allowance for lunch to the VDC secretaries serving in the 14 worst quake-hit districts as they would have to handle additional workload related to reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Following the decision, the ministry had even provided inventive for last three months of the previous fiscal year but, with the beginning of the current fiscal year, the ministry stopped providing the announced inventive to the secretaries much to the dismay of the secretaries.
“We repeatedly asked the ministry to release the incentive. One and a half months ago, we had even submitted a memorandum to the local development minister to address our demands, but to no avail. So, we took to protest from Thursday as the last resort,” said Rijal.
On Tuesday, a team of the VDC secretaries had met Chief Executive Officer of the National Reconstruction Authority Govinda Raj Pokharel and warned of protests if no efforts were made to address their demands within two days.
Issuing a press statement on Thursday, the ministry urged the agitating secretaries to return to their work stating that the ministry has initiated necessary steps to address their demands.
“The MoFALD could not provide the incentive due to delay on part of the Ministry of Finance to release necessary budget. As the budget has been released, we will provide them soon,” said Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, secretary at the MoFALD.