It was six weeks ago that Nepal received a bolt, about which we had been forewarned for some years. The ground shaking, which started with a crescendo on 25th April and an encore on 12th May was accompanied by cries of ‘Ayo, Ayo’. Now we are getting used to the aftershocks of these to the extent that that a shake of the magnitude of about 4.2 on the Richter Scale just evokes the comment of ‘Here we go again’!
What all this has resulted in is the comment that this has put us back by anything between one to two decades. Newspapers of the capital have shown the setbacks in various areas by way of pictograms depicting how different aspects of our lives have been affected.
The Republica Daily on 28th May highlighted that the facilities damaged in terms of government offices, schools and health facilities totalled 1,267, 4,217 and 326 respectively. It also stated that 4.5 lakhs of individual dwellings were damaged whereas the Home Ministry stated it was 8 lakhs. Whether these will be partially or completely rebuilt is anyone’s guess. One suggestion to resettle people by cutting down forests is sacrilege. Better option would be to use the Bhutanese Refuge and the former Maoist Camps for this.
Whilst all this is happening, other events have occurred. As many as 10 lakhs of the inhabitants of the capital have left their rented accommodations, vowing not to come back. Some have said that it is the mental stress and the agony that their children have had to cope with that led to this. The children with tears in their eyes had turned to their parents and pleaded, “I don’t want to go to school. What if this happens when we are in the classroom which is on the top of the building?”
It is possible that some of these people who have left the capital now will come back once the dust settles and the experiences suffered become a more distant memory. The initial fear or revulsion of death and hardship as a result of this cannot last forever. But who can blame those who go away as the situation on the ground is that the densely populated areas of the town are so located that should a disaster occur the chances of one being rescued alive are slim. Rescue efforts to reach the unfortunates are sure to be obstructed, hampered and much delayed because of the poor accessibility, Bulldozers will probably not be able to enter the narrow streets to clear the debris to allow the ambulances and fire-engines to get there for the rescue.
With all these occurrences, there have even been the suggestions that the capital should be shifted to the Terai – an idea first mooted by late Dr. Harka Gurung during Panchayat days. He had suggested the administrative layout of the country on a North South Basis and the formation of four or five regions. This is perhaps the time to reflect on this proposal too. A number of the Rana palaces taken over by the government and converted to administrative and various other usage such as for army, police, public library, art gallery and even orphanage have suffered damage to such extents that they have to be pulled down. Instead of spending millions on rebuilding here, why not shift our capital to the Terai as it will probably cost less to do so. Many green areas of the valley had also been hijacked during Rana and Panchayet days for use by the army or police. It is therefore the right time for the green areas of the massive Durbar grounds to be reverted back to the public of the valley in the form of parks for citizen’s use. Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur with their remaining heritage sites and the resurrected ones can continue to be the cultural centres to attract pilgrims or tourists. Such an action will surely be warmly welcomed by many.
The recent catastrophe in Nepal has led to and demonstrated the tremendous worldwide goodwill that exists not just because of Gurkhas and mountaineering but also because of relief works undertaken by our service personnel. Haiti, itself a sufferer of similar devastation, has announced a generous contribution for our relief. Migrant Nepalis who have now taken different nationalities have come forward in this hour of need to help. NRNs are investing in Nepal and the hope is that ‘Nepal will rise again’ as a unified nation with the sweat and massive efforts of all.
With all the trouble that our country is steeped in, I am a little disheartened also. The ‘Ayos’ that one heard during this past month, seem to have become a wakeup call to many in our land. Like the ‘Open Sesame’ of the Ali Baba tale, a number of undesirables have come to the fore. Foods sent by donors for relief have been substituted with substandard items which then have been distributed. Genuine goods are said to have be diverted for sale and substandard ones supplied at exorbitant prices. Who is to blame where there is no authority to fear? It is a ‘Free for All’ as in wrestling – a show put up to startle and bluff the public!
The worst crime that is being done at this time is the trafficking of children and women that is being carried out by some of our own people. The government needs to take harsh steps, as is being done in Bangladesh, to stop this immediately.