‘Game of Thrones’ leaves Nepal vic­tims in the cold

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HOKSHE, Nepal:

Farmer Ganesh Prasad Gau­tam beamed as the young woman be­hind the desk lit­tered with files called his name out at the run­down gov­ern­ment of­fice in the moun­tains of cen­tral Nepal. Af­ter 18 months of liv­ing in a shack made of cor­ru­gated iron, tar­pau­lin and bam­boo amid the ru­ins of his earth­quake-hit house, he is fi­nally re­ceiv­ing long­promised gov­ern­ment funds to start re­build­ing his home.

The 54-year-old farmer was one of eight mil­lion peo­ple af­fected in April last year when a 7.8-mag­ni­tude quake struck the Hi­malayan nation - leav­ing 9,000 dead and de­stroy­ing one mil­lion homes as well as schools, busi­nesses roads, and bridges. “The money is late and it’s not enough to build what I had be­fore, but at least the gov­ern­ment has given it,” Gau­tam said to nods from fel­low vil­lagers gath­ered at the of­fice in Hokshe vil­lage, 64 km east of Kathmandu. “We’ve al­ready en­dured one win­ter and two mon­soons like this - out in the open with no pro­tec­tion from the rain and cold.”

But Gau­tam is one of the lucky ones. Con­stant feud­ing be­tween a myr­iad of po­lit­i­cal par­ties has fu­elled po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and weak gov­er­nance in Nepal, de­lay­ing ef­forts to re­build the coun­try of 28 mil­lion peo­ple de­spite an out­pour­ing of aid, an­a­lysts said. On­go­ing po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in a coun­try which has seen 24 gov­ern­ments in 26 years has stymied re­con­struc­tion ef­forts. “You are look­ing at a coun­try that has had three gov­ern­ments since the earth­quake - all coali­tions and none with a solid ma­jor­ity,” said Re­naud Meyer, Coun­try Direc­tor for the United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) in Nepal. “There is no doubt the po­lit­i­cal land­scape is the big­gest bar­rier for the re­cov­ery and re­con­struc­tion of Nepal to take place. It re­quires con­sis­tency, it re­quires de­ter­mi­na­tion and the less open it is to spoil­ers, the bet­ter.”

Pol­i­tics Pre­vails

Wedged be­tween In­dia and China, Nepal - famed as the birth­place of Bud­dha and home to Mount Ever­est - is one of the world’s poor­est coun­tries. A decade-long civil war be­tween Maoist rebels and gov­ern­ment forces ended in 2006, rais­ing hopes of devel­op­ment in a coun­try where one in four peo­ple live on less than $1.90 a day - the World Bank’s mea­sure of ex­treme poverty. The three main par­ties - the Nepali Congress (NC), Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Cen­tre) and the Uni­fied Marx­ist Lenin­ist (UML) - have over the years made un­likely bed­fel­lows in frag­ile coali­tions and politi­cians are seen as self­ish and power hun­gry.

Crit­ics say rather than fo­cus on re­con­struc­tion, for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Sushil Koirala’s NC-led gov­ern­ment ex­ploited a wave of na­tional sol­i­dar­ity in the quake’s af­ter­math to fi­nalise Nepal’s long over­due con­sti­tu­tion. Even though a new char­ter was adopted in Sept 2015, and a new coali­tion gov­ern­ment led by Khadga Prasad Oli’s UML party took power, the his­toric mo­ment was marred by blood­shed in street clashes in the south­ern Terai re­gion bor­der­ing In­dia.

More than 50 peo­ple died in the cri­sis, which forced Oli to re­sign nine months af­ter tak­ing power as his main coali­tion part­ner, the Maoist Cen­tre party, with­drew its sup­port. The con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis and po­lit­i­cal changes re­sulted a six-month de­lay in set­ting up the Na­tional Re­con­struc­tion Author­ity (NRA) - the key agency over­see­ing Nepal’s re­cov­ery. As a re­sult, fam­i­lies are only now re­ceiv­ing the first in­stall­ment of a promised 200,000 ru­pee ($1,880) hous­ing grant. But for some Nepalis, the funds are too lit­tle, too late. Down the road from the five-star Hy­att Re­gency ho­tel in Chuchep­ati on the out­skirts of Kathmandu, amid the hun­dreds of blue and white plas­tic tents which make up a dis­place­ment camp, house­wife Shanti Pari­yar, 42, com­plains of sleep­less nights. Lit­tle food, daily treks to queue for two jerry cans of clean water, few toi­lets, no pri­vacy to bathe and mon­soon rains which flood her tar­pau­lin tent are bad enough, she said. But what keeps her up at night is the 300,000ru­pee ($2,815) debt she has racked up since her vil­lage home was de­stroyed, forc­ing her fam­ily to move to the cap­i­tal in search of work. — Reuters

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