Growing Scepticism : Hira Bahadur Thapa
As Nepal prepares slowly to bring the situation to normalcy in the wake of the devastating earthquake and accompanying aftershocks, news of complacency on the part of some government offices has been dominating the agenda. Such weakness on the part of the government is unwarranted at a time when it is engaged in preparing the groundwork for a donors’ conference aimed at mobilising funds for the country’s reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The recent revelations of some Nepalese missions abroad failing to live up to their expectations in convincing and persuading the foreign governments, prospective individual donors, philanthropists and other charity organisations, has been more shocking than anything else. No wonder that even the two entities of the Nepal government viz the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were seen at loggerheads while instructing the embassies and missions regarding their roles in mobilising assistance for the relief and reconstruction of post-earthquake Nepal.
The confusion at the headquarters to send clear instructions to the diplomatic missions has been one of the primary factors in dissuading even the diaspora Nepali organisations from handing over the collected funds for the earthquake victims. Furthermore, those Nepalese living abroad, let alone the foreigners, are not totally convinced that the incumbent government adheres to the rule of transparency in handling the funds.
This is why in many parts of the globe, Nepali citizens and even Nepali-born foreign citizens have raised doubts about the government’s effectiveness in utilising the money to benefit the most affected. Complaints by the victims of the earthquake were heard quite frequently in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Not surprisingly, non-governmental agencies were the first to reach the most affected as well as remote areas like Barpak and surrounding villages, among others, where the government’s presence was not noticed for many days.
gainst such background, a few US-based Nepali organisations mainly Non-Resident Nepalese, USA organised an interaction in Queens, New York in the last week of May, the purpose being to find out how best these associations could contribute to the ongoing relief and future plans for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Nepal.
The attendance of the participants was disappointing, with a few present besides the office bearers of the said organisations, and more shockingly there was no representation of the government in that important interactive programme, the aim of which was to discuss how to mobilise resources for long-term rebuilding of the country in the wake of the disaster.
One may guess that the Nepali organisations based in the US hardly recognise the UN mission not only because they are not so aware about the role the office is supposed to play for promoting Nepal but also because they are doubtful of its efficacy in handling matters in time of such urgency and crisis.
During my informal discussion with some of the attendees of the above mentioned programme, I was told that the UN mission was completely missing in guiding the organisations of the Nepalese diaspora, which had visited the senior official, and were quite disappointed to be told that the government office could not do anything for them to coordinate their relief work. Instead they were told to chalk out their own plans to visit the affected regions themselves.
One participant just quipped, if they had to do everything by themselves with the government unit keeping mum, what good does it do to pay a visit to the UN mission to seek their assistance in the coordination efforts?
Nevertheless, the Queens interactive meeting organised primarily by the New York chapter of the US-based NRN was conspicuous by the presence and powerful presentation by a Pakistani-born American nephrologist, Dr Fahim Rahim, who had been instrumental in providing emergency relief services especially in Kavre and Sindhupalchok districts in the immediate aftermath of the natural calamity.
With enough resources at hand, allowing him to charter a helicopter (paying one lakh per day) to the affected but very remote villages not accessible by roads, his team in coordination with the Dhulikhel Hospital was able to render quick emergency services that saved hundreds of lives, who had been seriously injured.
JRM-Foundation, which Dr. Rahim leads, is now embarking upon a huge project of mobilising sufficient funds to cater to the reconstruction and rehabilitation needs of earthquake-hit Nepal. In this age of globalisation and fast developing information technology, the above foundation has started utilising the social networking forums and inducing the Nepalese people, in general, and the various organisations of Nepalese people, in particular, to join in his petition movement directed at the US government in Washington DC for raising funds for reconstructing Nepal.
His organisation itself is committed to collecting 1 million dollars and challenging the US administration to set aside at least 100 million dollars. The US government’s previous commitment to offer 80 billion dollars to Haiti in the post-earthquake period for the country’s rebuilding has been quoted as an example that should put moral pressure on the administration to decide to enhance the level of assistance to Nepal, whose rebuilding requirements are quite huge stretching over billions of dollars.
While the above movement looks promising and deserves endorsement and due support from all segments of the Nepali population not only in the US but also from other parts of the globe, the political leadership in Kathmandu seems entirely focused on changing the guard at Singh Durbar. The so-called four major political parties have developed consensus for issuing a new constitution in the near future, but the way a large chunk of the 30-party opposition alliance is opposed to any agreement being hammered out by the major parties is disturbing.
In view of the upcoming June 25 Donors’ Conference on Nepal to be hosted in Kathmandu, which is expecting the presence of executive heads of some countries and also the UN Secretary-General, it is only fitting that the contentious issues related to the constitution have been resolved sooner rather than later to spread the message that there is no problem in governance in post-earthquake Nepal.