Bitter winter loomsThe Ministry of Finance (MoF) on Sunday approved the distribution of the second tranche of housing aid to earthquake-affected families.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) on Sunday approved the distribution of the second tranche of housing aid to earthquake-affected families. A meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara gave the green light to the proposal seeking amendment of the housing grant guideline for a Cabinet approval to pave the way for the disbursal of the second and the third instalments of government aid.
Earlier the government had announced Rs150,000 in second instalment to each quake-hit household that has completed the foundation of its new dwelling. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has stated that an additional Rs75 billion will be required for that, after the Dahal-led government announced in August a revision of the aid amount to each household from Rs200,000 to Rs300,00.
Sunday’s decision is a welcome development, since the delay in approving the amended guideline had stalled aid distribution to the quake-victims. However, the government’s handling of the overall reconstruction process has been too tardy and irresponsible. Many quake victims are set to spend their second winter under makeshift tents.
Although the NRA spokesperson has spoken in positive terms about Sunday’s decision, claming that it will facilitate aid distribution and address other issues delaying reconstruction works at the local level, it is too little, too late. It is cold comfort for the thousands who are bracing for a long and freezing winter.
It has been 20 months since the worst calamity in living memory struck the country. What should have been accorded the highest national priority has been put on the back burner, and the government and the NRA have invented one pretext after another to justify unreasonable delays in reconstruction. National focus has also shifted to political hot topics such as the CIAA chief’s impeachment and constitution amendment.
Many quake-victims had died from cold last winter. Sadly, more tragic news is all but inevitable this winter. People have started falling sick. The government’s response to the approaching tragedy has been perfunctory at best, and positively irresponsible at worst. It must expedite reconstruction works and minimise deaths of quake-survivors. The decision the government made on Sunday is a small positive step; it must pick up momentum.