If the election code of conduct can be violated with impunity by the big and small political parties alike, it is criminal to argue that the same code bars government authorities from distributing relief material for helpless flood victims. It was way back in mid-August that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had handed over relief material to the Home Ministry for distribution to flood victims in Tarai-Madhes. But the relief material that included 3,000 blankets, 100 plastic sheets, 100 tents and 10 water tanks are still locked up in a go-down at the Tribhuvan International Airport. When JICA officials inquired, Home officials reportedly told them that they were unable to distribute these materials, first, due to the code of conduct that was in place for local elections, and then, due to the festivities. Now, with the code of conduct for the upcoming provincial and federal elections already in force, they have found a new excuse to put off this vital work. But, then, would providing such relief material really comprise a violation of election code? As the ministry has never inquired about distribution of relief materials, says the Election Commission, it has never had to say whether the practice is against election code.
In other words, had the ministry requested the commission to make an exception for flood victims, the commission would, in all likelihood, have complied with the humanitarian request. But election code was never really a problem, was it? The problem is our lethargic bureaucrats who are forever on a lookout for excuses to shun work. Their lethargy is such that even the great hardship of thousands of homeless flood victims does not affect them. Interestingly, even as flood-relief materials from our donors are locked up, the government on Monday announced a new ‘flood relief package’, worth some Rs 4 billion—five months after the devastating floods. This makes one suspect that the one and only purpose behind the relief package is to get the votes of those affected by recent floods. But people aren’t fools. Flood victims know perfectly well that the government, on the strength of the evidence thus far, is not at all bothered about their sorry plight. So if the ruling parties do get their votes, it will not be because of anything related to the floods but despite it.
A disaster-prone country, and with now the added financial weight of implementing the federal setup, Nepal will need continued support and goodwill of its international donors for the foreseeable future. But if we are to so badly neglect their support, and for such a vital cause, the donors will hesitate to come to our help. It is also cruel on flood victims to deprive them of vital necessities, for months at a time, for no good reason. Government authorities should also stop making the election code an excuse. If the cabinet can, with one decision, and without consulting the Election Commission, disburse Rs 4 billion for flood victims, surely, nothing stops them from releasing relief material from the donor community. This is a despicable display of self-serving politics.