A Malfunctioning Government

Nepal quake victims fear government won't help much, if history is guide
"It's the same government as last year, so I have very little hope that things will be different," said Mangale Tamang, 56, a former Jure resident who was sleeping Sunday morning in a lean-to by the side of a dust-choked highway where his village once stood. ............ in the recent past, the government has struggled to compensate victims of natural disasters far smaller than the temblor that has left more than 7,250 dead and damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. ...... a peculiar system of government sprung from a failure to hold local elections in nearly 20 years. All decisions must go through a few top officials in the capital, Katmandu, and committees that manage local affairs are appointed by national political parties, which the Nepalese say makes them less accountable to the people. ........ The country's auditor general reported in March that government agencies had spent just one-fifth of their budget because of "political influence while selecting projects, lack of regular follow-up of project implementation, poor participation of users and collusion between contractors and government officials." ...... The government also aims to collect $2 billion for a national reconstruction fund to rebuild shattered infrastructure. ...... After the Jure disaster, officials paid $1,000 to families that lost their homes and $400 to those that lost a relative. But villagers say they have not seen any money from a $220,000 Jure Landslide Relief Fund created to help families get back on their feet. ...... A report last month in the Nepal News website said the funds, raised mainly through private donations, were sitting in a government account because the Home Affairs Ministry had not given permission for them to be disbursed. ...... A few miles up the winding highway in Chautara, the devastated seat of Sindhupalchowk district, residents said they had not seen any assistance from the local government in the eight days since the quake. More than 2,000 people have died in the district east of the capital, the highest death toll in the country, but residents said they had not heard from Gyawali, the top local official. ........ "Of course the foreigners are helping and aid is coming into the country, but they're not the ones handing it out to the people," shopkeeper Sher Bahadur Thapa said. "They give it to the district and the ward officials, and that's where it goes missing. It's the needy people who suffer."


The Earthquake-Wrecked Town That the Nepali Government Forgot
CHAUTARA, Nepal—Cries of anger rose above the din of military helicopters and wails of the injured, as men banged their fists on the metal gate outside the town’s government offices. But it was fruitless: Local officials had fled the building shortly after Nepal’s earthquake, leaving the windows open and a truck—its windshield smashed by the crowd, creating a spiderweb-shaped crack in the glass—parked outside. ....... The Nepali prime minister’s Disaster Relief Fund, set up explicitly for the earthquake, reported on Friday that it had raised $1.5 million but only distributed 1 percent of that money so far ..... Foreign aid agencies have complained of severe delays in getting their cargo planes into the country’s sole and tiny international airport. ..... “Why do you think we’re in charge here?” a Nepalese Army sergeant, wearing camouflage and a black facemask to ward off disease, asked me in Chautara. “We’re managing this to prevent violence against the government,” said the sergeant ....... The stench of a large, communal toilet wafted over us. .... Though Chautara, a town of roughly 4,000 people, is only 25 miles northeast of Kathmandu, the drive now involves three hours of negotiating thick mud, since most of its crag-hugging roads have been destroyed. In the town itself, whole floors of brick buildings were ripped away; on the third floor of one house, a family’s framed pictures of their children hung on an exposed yellow wall, beside a neatly stacked pile of shoes. The town had so many cracks and clusters of detritus that the rare, untouched building seemed improper, almost impertinent. ....... When I visited, Rachana Sahi, 25, was digging for salvageable belongings through the heap that had been her family home. “Sure, the government will help us,” she hissed, dragging out a dust-covered rug. “Once we’re dead.” ..... the earthquake shows just how vital it is to have political institutions that work, both at the center and, even more importantly, at the local level ...... “Anger does not do justice to my feelings at the moment,” he said brusquely between drilling. Villagers gathered to watch. Around them lay the debris of lives interrupted by cracked earth: a fake pearl bracelet, a TV remote, a computer screen, a submerged motorcycle. Under the surrounding cliffs, viridian wheat fields were almost ready for harvesting—cold comfort for the people of Chautara.

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