As Government Tries To Rein In Relief Work, Public Efforts Continue

At a time when individuals and non-governmental organisations were just getting off the ground initiating efforts to help with flood relief, the government on Monday, decided to bar non-governmental actors from distributing emergency relief materials.

After visiting the disaster-hit eastern and central regions, Minister for Home Affairs Janardan Sharma, held a meeting with the Natural Disaster and Rescue Committee and directed the Chief Secretary and authorities concerned to channelise all relief materials through government agencies.

“A condition should be made that if any person or organisation want to provide cash assistance to the flood-affected people they should deposit it in the Prime Minister’s Natural Disaster Rescue Fund,” Sharma is quoted as saying by the Ministry Spokesperson Ram Krishna Subedi.

“This has been the practice for distributing relief materials all along,” Subedi told Onward Nepal. “All relief materials must be registered with District Disaster Risk Reduction Committee (DDRC), to make sure all the materials get distributed evenly.”

The meeting also appointed Kedar Neupane, as Joint Secretary of the Relief Collection Coordination Committee. The government has also fixed the Nepal Food Corporation, Thapathali, and the godown of Tribhuvan International Airport as relief collection points.

“Individuals and organisations should hand over the relief materials to our officials at these places in Kathmandu,” said Neupane. “The DDRC will receive the relief materials in districts.”

The Home Ministry has urged all (Nepalis) to provide tarpaulins, utensils, rice, salt, cooking oil, and lentils through the coordination committee. Minister Sharma emphasised that only new clothes should be collected for the distribution.

Above: Relief materials collected  at Ventures Cafe through the #FillTheBucket campaign, earlier today. Following the Government’s announcement today, the group has decided to hand over all the buckets collected through their campaign to MP and former Health Minister Gagan Thapa’s effort towards the same.
Photo: Sudhir Bhandari/ON

Top: Inarwa locals seek shelter. Ajit Kumar Jha / Inarwa RSS

Public Outcry Against Government Decision

This government decision has received criticism from all quarters. The government has instead been urged to facilitate relief distribution instead. “It is the responsibility of the government to coordinate and facilitate. It is not appropriate to be wanting to do everything by itself,” tweeted environment and urban planning expert, Bhusan Tuladhar.

“The government neither runs rescue and relief operations effectively nor allows others to carry out the operations,” tweeted advocate Dipendra Jha. He described the government decision as being characteristic of a rent-seeking state, that only extracts ‘rent’ utilising all state mechanisms.


Government’s History – Grounds For Cynicism

The government appears to not have learnt from the rescue and relief operations carried out after the 2015 earthquake. At the time, the government had failed to effectively distribute relief materials to victims on time. A huge amount of rice stored in government warehouses rotted while victims bought their own food.

Government officials were even found to have hoarded scores of good quality tents and tarpauline to sell them in the market later. There were even reports that Nepal government had taxed relief materials at the border as well as at the Customs office in Kathmandu despite tax exemption on relief materials.

“I was hoping the government would offer us help to transport relief materials when it ordered us to drop them at the Food Cooperation office. What kind of people run the government?” Mamta Regmi Pradhan tweeted today.

What Next?

If the examples of the 2014 monsoon floods and the 2015 earthquake mean anything, then the government directive today will not deter any of the non-governmental efforts underway since Saturday, August 12. Still, it is advised the public use their best judgment in deciding how to contribute.

In the meantime, several relief efforts that Onward Nepal wrote about on Sunday, August 13, have shown no sign of slowing down their work.

Shree Gurung, a social activist and proprietor of Octave Kathmandu, announced today a ‘Sushi For A Cause For Flood Victims’ fundraising event on August 15:

Dibyesh Giri, social activist and and CEO of Smart Tech Solution, has continued to announce the following:

The #FillTheBucket campaign, as well the two efforts mentioned above along with several individuals are all part of the loosely organised Alliance For Disaster Relief Group. The group comprising of several individuals with a history of activism and social mobilisation, is continuing its efforts and coordinating funds and logistics for aid deliveries and assistance for this week, with or without the government.