Earthquake survivors are using the first tranche of their home reconstruction grant for everything but reconstruction
Pics: Shreejana Shrestha
TIMELY GRANT: Immediately after receiving the first instalment of the housing grant, Radhika Dahal spent part of it to pay off her loan, and is planning to use the remaining amount for Dasain expenses.
Nearly one-and-half years after the earthquake, Radhika Dahal received the first instalment of government's housing grant, Rs 50,000 this week. Immediately, she used part of it to pay off a loan she had taken last year to build a temporary shelter.
Cashing in on politics, Shreejana Shrestha
The 41-year-old mother of three had built a tin hut after the earthquake destroyed her house in Panchkhal, and is planning to spend what is left of the grant for Dasain expenses.
“The reconstruction grant will not be enough to rebuild our house, so we will use it to pay off our Rs 100,000 loan and to buy new clothes for my children,” Dahal said.
Dahal is in no particular hurry to rebuild her house which will cost Rs 900,000. Like many families in the earthquake-devastated districts, and as a single mother, her immediate priority is to pay off the loan and celebrate the festival.
“I will think of building a new house only after receiving the second instalment,” she says.
The delayed disbursement of the housing grant by the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and uncertainty about when the rest of the money will come has meant that many families are using the first instalment of Rs 50,000 to meet household expenses.
Guru Prasad Gautam and Krishna Prasad Mishra (below) are also celebrating Dasain with the money given to them to rebuild their houses.
Krishna Prasad Mishra, 50, also withdrew his first instalment this week and on the same day paid off part of a loan he had taken to build his temporary shelter. His family of five had nowhere to go and nothing to eat after their house collapsed.
“I can’t think of immediately building a new house with the government grant because I have my wife’s medical bills,” says Mishra, whose wife was diagnosed with cancer. He has sent his son to Saudi Arabia to earn money to meet expenses.
Here in Kavre, villagers have long stopped complaining about the delays in grant disbursement. They don’t expect much from the government, and if and when the money is distributed most say they are not going to use it to rebuild.
Pramesh Gautam was overjoyed when he collected his Rs 50,000 this week. He says the rest of the money will not enough be enough to pay for transporting building materials to the site of his ruined house. “Most people here are preparing to celebrate the festival with the money they just received because the grant money is not enough to build houses,” says Gautam.
The NRA recently raised the total housing grant from Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000 to be provided in several instalments. It has just distributed the first tranche of Rs 50,000 to nearly 400,000 households in 11 districts after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal gave a deadline of 45 days to get it done.
Panchkhal Municipality has signed agreements with 6,200 households including 100 here in Jyamirkot village to provide the first instalment of the housing grant.
Despite overwhelming evidence that most grantees are using their money to meet festival expenses and pay off loans, Basudev Bhetawal of Panchkhal Municipality says families should use the grant money only for rebuilding purposes in order to avoid any legal hassles later.
“The victims will not receive the second tranche of the housing grant if they do not rebuild their homes as per approved designs,” he says, “they are not supposed to spend it on anything else.”
But it doesn’t look like the people of Kavre are listening to him.
Ruin in the rain, Sahina Shrestha
Authority to reconstruct, Om Astha Rai
Deconstructing reconstruction, Sahina Shrestha