KATHMANDU, April 25: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has criticized the government and the political parties for unnecessary delay in relief distribution, reconstruction and rehabilitation for earthquake victims, and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for lack of transparency and publicity stunts.
Unveiling its report on the human rights situation in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake last year, NHRC has stated that the quake victims are facing adverse weather conditions in their makeshift shelters and this has raised the risk of human casualties. "This is a serious challenge in human rights protection," stated the report.
"It was found that the work of relief distribution, reconstruction and rehabilitation was unnecessarily delayed since it took almost eight months to endorse the Act for forming the reconstruction authority due to political wrangling," the report stated.
NHRC has recommended to the government to improve its preparedness for disaster reduction and rescue, as well as urged it to make special arrangements for women, children and the elderly in times of crisis.
Likewise, the commission has asked the government to make the relief distribution transparent and justifiable. It has also urged necessary legal changes to facilitate reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The commission has further urged the government to take action against individuals and organizations involved in distributing substandard relief materials, especially materials harmful to health.
The constitutional body has urged the political parties to act responsibly over the plight of the quake victims and help in reconstruction and rehabilitation work without any prejudice.
"The commission urges political parties and their representatives to work honestly and impartially, and be accountable and maintain unity in facing the disaster, remaining above political rivalry and the politics of votes," stated the report.
The human rights watchdog has likewise asked the NGOs to coordinate with the government agencies and maintain transparency and accountability. The commission has asked NGOs to pay special attention to local needs, geography and market prices while carrying out the tasks of relief distribution and reconstruction.
"There is a wide range of complaints from local victims that the NGOs have not coordinated adequately with the government agencies nor maintained transparency in their work, and that they have instead focused on publicity stunts. It is also known that they have not carried forward the reconstruction tasks that they had earlier committed themselves to," stated the report.
The commission has expressed serious concerns over discrimination in relief distribution. "It was found that relief materials were distributed only to the people of certain religious beliefs in some places while in some other places the materials were distributed only to a certain ethnic group and community," the report stated.
Unveiling the report, NHRC Chairman Anup Raj Sharma said the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has failed to deliver reconstruction at the pace expected. "We are not criticizing anyone; we are just raising concern. The reconstruction work is sluggish despite our continuous monitoring and recommendations. I fear what would happen if we stop raising our concern," said Sharma.
NHRC suggests periodic local elections
In its 26-point conclusion, the report has suggested that the local government bodies should be made permanent in nature. NHRC reached the conclusion that the rescue, relief and reconstruction work was rendered difficult because of the absence of people's representatives at local bodies.
"There should be periodic elections to local bodies. As far as possible, there should not be any vacancies of people's representatives and secretaries at local bodies," NHRC concluded.
It has been almost 17 years since local elections were last held.
NHRC has also suggested either an upgrading of the section at the Home Ministry that looks after natural disasters into a department or the formation of a separate entity which includes experts.
NHRC has likewise reached the conclusion that there should be a one-door policy in matters of rescue, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation. The commission has suggested considering national security as a priority in times of disaster.