A recent incident has shown how politicization can ruin a successful project. The Rural Agriculture and Integrated Development Project (RAIDP) posted its success starting from 2006/07 under the dynamic role played by its director Ashok Kumar Jha. Now he was removed from the post under the orders of deputy prime minister Narayan Kazi Shrestha.
Although the government has committed not to remove project directors of the foreign-funded projects for a certain period, removal of Jha, who pushed the project to its present level, proved otherwise.
At a time when the RAIDP has been making a big progress in changing the livelihoods of millions of people, Jha’s removal as its director has brought the process to a sudden halt. Jha established a record in the last four years by making RAIDP a project the Auditor General Office’s a ‘best office’ in performance audit. Auditor General’s report hailed RAIDP’s financial records as noteworthy.
However, nothing mattered when the government’s decision removed Jha from his position. From making improvement in health to increased enrolment in education and access to the market, roads constructed under RAIDP have brought transformation in all spheres of rural life. Jha’s replacement was Raja Karmacharya, the director of four years ago, removed for his inaction.
Covering 226,309 households with 1,332,602 people in the 248 VDCs with 1326 settlements under the zone of influence of the rural road projects, the RAIDP has already constructed more than 907 kilometers of roads. Of the total roads, 21, that is, nearly 62 percent roads lie in Terai districts, and 13 roads (38 percent) in the hill districts. Of the total length of the roads, 520 km (nearly 58 percent) lies in Terai districts and 397 km (nearly 42 percent) in the hill.
Sudden transfer of Jha has created panic in the project areas and newly appointed director Karmacharya is yet to take the role played by Jha. In project appraisal meeting, the World Bank reportedly expressed concern over the transfer.
Rural Access and Decentralization Project has been implemented with the financial assistance of the World Bank since 2005. One of the aims of the project is to improve the existing rural roads, construct trail bridges and support for improvement of livelihood to eradicate poverty and good governance and accountability in the rural areas. RAIDP program is designed to support efforts at poverty reduction in rural areas by promoting economic development and providing access to basic services that can increase the quality of life of the poor.
As it is running in the last year and in the process of preparation of document for another phase, Jha’s transfer will definitely create problems in the extension of the project. It is the people who have to suffer if the project failed to deliver.