19-25 June 2015 #763

Braving the monsoon

Putting-off federal demarcation will anger some, but the 2 million people without homes have other worries
Anurag Acharya
Even before the April earthquake mutual self-interest among top political leaders were beginning to converge, and there was an effort to finalise the constitution. The earthquake expedited that process, giving both the Maoists and the ruling parties an excuse to compromise without bruising each other’s egos.

If things unfold the way they are expected to, the country will get a constitution by next month by putting federal demarcation in the back burner. It is a recipe for future bickering, but there doesn’t seem to be any other way for now.

Photo: Anurag Acharya

Meanwhile, 30km away from Kathmandu in Lamidanda of Kavre, Urmila Adhikari (pic, above) is clearing the debris of her home with bare hands. Every now and then, her seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter carry bricks to lend a hand, but she shoos them away.

Urmila’s husband is a daily wage earner but his meagre earnings do not even buy a loaf of bread for the family, let alone school stationery for the children. While the wife toiled under mid-day sun, man of the house was nowhere to be seen.

Lamidanda residents have not received much relief from outside. Urmila and her neighbours have heard about government’s pledge for Rs 15,000 emergency cash relief but doubt if they will get it before the rains set in.

Urmila Adhikari is clearing the debris of her home with bare hands.

“I need help to get this rubble cleared soon and rebuild my house. I can’t keep the children under tarpaulin sheets when the storms come,” she said.

The government’s cash distribution program has run into trouble with rising cases of fake applicants (see page 4). Pressure from powerful locals looking to pocket cash compensation for fake houses is so strong that officials in many districts have fled.

We often talk about the greed of our national leaders, but the earthquake has exposed how corruption is decentralised. A stable government at the centre with accountable local government would have helped check malpractice, and expedited relief and rebuilding. But for now, we have to live with the choices our leaders have made.

On the brighter side, last week’s political convergence has sent a positive message to the donor community, ahead of the 25 June conference. Even so, the government will have to lay out a clear plan of how it intends to mobilise resources that will be pledged. There just isn’t enough time for the international community to make pledges by next week, but at least we may have a strategy. 

For better or for worse, the 16-point agreement is based on nothing but mutual interest of top leaders to secure their own positions. The power sharing deal, which is at the heart of this pact, foresees a government led by the UML’s KP Oli, with the Maoists and the Gachhadar led MJF-Democratic getting key ministerial positions alongside the NC. It also foresees a NC President with yet another Madhesi Vice- President.

However, nothing is as simple as that in Nepal.  Unless there is a clear incentive, there is no reason why the NC, being the biggest political party, would want to concede leadership to maintain an alliance whose utility will end the day statute is declared.

KP Oli is forced to trust the NC because Sushil Koirala wants to pass a constitution while in office. Even those angry at Dahal and Gachhadar’s opportunism know that this is the maximum compromise for the present among such a diverse group of stakeholders.

So, the right question to ask now is not if this is a good time to be drafting the constitution, but whether it will help the country move ahead. And for survivors like Urmila Adhikari, the concern is only to have enough food for her children and a roof over her head.


Read also:

Trouble in the rubble, Editorial

Friends in need, Sahina Shrestha

How not to reinvent the wheel, Bihari K Shrestha

Constitution deal inked, Om Astha Rai

Was that for real?, Damakant Jayshi

25 June Donor Summit, Om Astha Rai

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