21-27 June 2013 #661

Devastation in Darchula

Rashmi Raikhola, Setopati, 19 June

Nepal’s president and prime minister are sons of ordinary farmers. They fought against a tyrannical monarchy so that the rest of us could live in a free and democratic country. But today they are turning a blind eye to the plight of poor people. Massive floods in western Nepal have destroyed properties worth millions and rendered hundreds homeless and yet news about the president’s sickness managed to overshadow the tragedy. A budget of Rs 600,000 was allocated for Ram Baran Yadav’s treatment, but budget for flood victims amounted to a meagre Rs 500,000 and five hundred blankets. This amount doesn’t even cover the loss of one life.

No one has control over natural disasters and it is stupid to point fingers at India. According to local sources, the dam at Dhauliganga Hydro Power in Dharchula was at the brink of bursting after heavy rainfall caused the levels to swell. If the water had not been released into the Mahakali River, the damages would have been far worse.

The Nepali government has to take the main responsibility for this disaster. Where was the state when India was constructing barrages at multiple points? Couldn’t the government build one on Nepal’s side too? Maybe then, the devastation could have been minimised. The victims of the flood are more disappointed by the government’s inept response than the actual catastrophe and they are convinced beyond doubt that the state treats people of the far-west as its step-children.

And where are all the leaders of the political parties who queue up to offer sympathies to victims of international disasters? Why is there such silence on their behalf? What is the future of the parties without the support of common Nepalis? Should the far-west disown them?

What do occupants of Singha Darbar know about the sorrow of Nepalis who saw their homes and a lifetime worth of hard work swept away in front of their own eyes. But if those in power have even an ounce of humanity left, they will pay some attention to the people of Darchula.

Rashmi Raikhola is a nursing student who lost her aunt in the flood.

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