22-28 May 2015 #759

One month after

BIKRAM RAI

The government’s response in the month after the 25 April earthquake has been marked by a lack of a sense of urgency. For a calamity of this scale and scope, the country needed a proactive leadership that would be off and running from Day One. Four weeks later, we are just beginning to see a creaky state machinery trying to organise itself. The hallmarks of our official culture (blame-throwing, playing victim, hogging credit, irrational vengeance at a time of need) are all on full display.

With the need for emergency shelter and food beginning to reach even remote areas, the Ministry of Agriculture should be mobilised to support subsistence farmers who have lost everything with seeds, fertiliser, and basic tools. Most Nepalis don’t expect much from government, so they are doing their best to help themselves, like this woman (left) in Dadhikot of Bhaktapur on Tuesday harvesting wheat near the ruins of her home.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry is gearing up for a donor pledging conference in June. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent close adviser P K Mishra to Kathmandu this week to scope out the possibility of holding the conference in New Delhi. So far, only a fraction of the money pledged by the international community has been received, with ministers alleging that a lot of the western aid is recycled to their own consultants, and donors are worried about the lack of government accountability.

For the urgency of the task ahead, a 24-hour disaster management Control Room should have been set up by now, the top leadership should be meeting every day to analyse data and decide priorities: what supplies are needed most, where, and how to get it there. Specific mid-term requirements will be clearer with the conclusion of a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) meeting convened by the National Planning Commission this week.

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