#NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

Dr Swarnim Waglé

Dr Swarnim WagleI was in Gorkha and Dhading this week, in a personal capacity, assessing the loss and distributing relief materials sponsored by the Help Nepal Network (400 sacks of rice), FNCCI (assortment of medicines, mats, rice) and Leapfrog (transport). With nine hours of sleep in three days, I visited or passed by 25 VDCs. Many of my priors were upended, and I came away more aware of what is happening on the ground. Some quick observations below:

The problem of the last mile

The unit of operation should be the wards, not VDCs. The more accessible VDCs have benefited much more than those farther away. Some have already stocked up for a few months. To ensure better targeting, a heroic effort combining local knowledge and organizational skills is needed. Most external groups do not have the fortitude or patience. With the credit secured for the easier leg, the problem of the last mile is often left for the local administration to solve, which is already stretched.

This ain’t a picnic

Food in central Nepal means rice. Then lentils and cooking oil. The northern villages also need salt. They do not really need fancy bottles of mineral water, snacks, bhujia, biscuits, noodles, brand new saris, or the Bible. Continue reading

Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Ashutosh Tiwari

How can private businesses — which provide jobs and taxes, and goods and services that people need and pay for — provide help?

(Please use these points ONLY as broad suggestions. Obviously, each business has its own context, limited resources, and limited capabilities to do what it can for its employees, customers, investors and stakeholders.]

IMMEDIATE:
1. Check to see/confirm whether ALL the staff members, including factory workers, are accounted for and are indeed physically safe. [If not, ask about access to medical care and see if you can arrange it in some way.]
2. Check to see the extent of harm/damages, if any, to physical structures (office buildings, factory spaces, etc).
3. Visit staff members who have lost their loved ones and/or whose dwellings have been destroyed or demolished or have cracks on walls.
4. Offer the victims (i.e. your staff members) immediate relief in the form of cash and/or non-cash materials (i.e. tents, sleeping bags, water purification tablets, water, etc) to the extent you can. Remember, this is a major once-in-a-century type of an emergency that we are facing — so, think a bit creatively as to how you can allay people’s concerns. Check with the affected staff and their families daily or once every two days. Continue reading

Nepal Earthquake: Gentle note to the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph

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Dr Swarnim Wagle

Yesterday, it asserted in the first line of an article that one political party had announced all quake-related donations MUST go to ITS fund. Today, it has a different version online. After misleading thousands of readers with a lie for a whole day, I think the polite thing to do (and a good journalism practice) is to append a note of correction.

[The premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Nepal-aid-donors-may-halt-fund…]

Read related piece by Dr Swarnim Wagle: What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

Nepal Earthquake: Important for NGOs and voluntary groups

Kanak Mani Dixit

The Social Welfare Council (SWC) and its parent ministry have taken a decision that for earthquake relief purposes NGOs do NOT need prior SWC approval as has been the rule for receiving foreign funds. I double-checked with the officials, that the procedure for now is this – for receiving funds for relief activities from outside the country formally notify in hard copy the District Disaster Relief Committee (headed by CDO) and also send a note to the SWC (the latter you can do by email, but you can also do it in hard copy).

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Mr Kanak Mani Dixit. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

Swarnim Wagle 

I have been swamped with queries on what the recent Central Bank directive on transfer of funds AFTER the April 25 earthquake means. **I share your concerns.** But it only affects bank accounts that were opened in the last 6 days under the direct subject of “quake relief.” People, agencies, NGOs, donors with established bank accounts before April 25 can continue to receive and mobilize funds just as they used to in the past. But I am verifying some more facts, and will post separately on this topic later.

In the mean time, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund. Let me clarify based on what I know:

1. The Prime Minister (or his party) have absolutely nothing to do with it. The PM cannot access this fund himself. It is coordinated by the Vice Chairperson of the NPC and 8 Secretaries through a unanimous decision.

2. It is purely a relief fund, channeled through the Chief District Officer in each disaster-hit district, and is meant to follow a “fast track” to cut through the usual procedural delays in a slow bureaucracy.

3. The fund cannot be used to provide donations or any other administrative or overhead costs including facilities and allowances to civil servants. (They get no helicopter rides or random “incentives.”)

4. This is *completely* different from the Prime Minister’s “Assistance Fund” which he can use with discretion.

5. Is there some leakage, abuse, waste? I bet there is, just like there is scope for foul play in any large fund run by multilaterals (WB/ADB), bilaterals (UK/US) or NGOs. But what are the safeguards against potential abuse? Unlike the PM’s “Assistance Fund” which is not legally required to be audited, the “Disaster Relief Fund” is audited regularly and annually by the Office of the Auditor General of Nepal. There is a clear “Karyabidhi” (Operation Regulations 2006). “Akhtiyaar” can also look into cases and folks can go to jail.

6. The Government will most likely also add an extra layer of third party, independent auditing to enhance credibility and transparency.

7. No political party or leader has any access to these funds at the Centre. My personal view is that to prevent misuse in the districts, vigilance and scrutiny is required by the media and civil society. Do ask tough questions and hold officials to account.

8. The website lists all contributions so far (file downloadable in Excel), including the US$1 million cash donation from Bhutan: http://pmrelief.opmcm.gov.np/contributors.aspx

9. In view of the above, the premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue.

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10. For further clarity, please contact the Coordinator of the Fund, Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel (NPC Vice Chair) on his mobile: 98511 00407 or the Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Mr. Narayan Gopal Malego on 98415 16505.

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle, member, National Planning Commission) 

A man for all seasons

Originally posted on tistung deurali:

Surya Bahadur Thapa possessed several traits common to many successful people in politics and business. He was cunning and charismatic, but he was also persistent, relentlessly pursuing power till the last days of his life. He could be shrewd but he was also flexible. He was opportunistic and corrupt. An astute political player, he was connected well enough to be trusted by all political quarters.

It is quite a feat for anyone to rise to the highest position available to citizens. Late Thapa accomplished this five times. Three kings, four different political systems, and an active public life that spanned more than five decades- Thapa had seen so much and adapted to each situation so well that his claim to success did not demand any remarkable contribution from him. He was already successful by just being there. For someone who was at the center of Nepalese power and politics for…

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Blogathon- नेपालका समस्याहरूमा छलफल (सन्दर्भ- गोविन्द केसीको आन्दोलन)

Originally posted on tistung deurali:

Blogathon

आउने २ हप्तामा डा गोविन्द केसीको आन्दोलन र यो प्रकरणसँग सम्बन्धित नेपालका समस्याहरुको बारे ब्लग लेख्नुहोस् । धेरै लामो हैन, ५००-८०० शब्दमा । मोबाइलमा २-३ पटक scroll गर्दा र डेस्कटपमा एक scroll मा पढ्न सकिने लम्बाइको ब्लग लेख्नुहोस् । आफ्नो ब्लगको link ट्वीटरमा share गर्नुहोस्, वा यो ब्लगमा कमेण्टको रुपमा लेख्नुहोस् । ट्वीटरमा छलफल गरेर केहिथप गर्नुपर्ने लागे आफ्नै ब्लगमा कमेण्टको रुपमा राख्नुहोस् । २ हप्तापछी यसरी लेखिएका ब्लगहरु समेटेर एउटा वेवसाइटमा प्रकाशन गरिनेछ ।

कृपया विषयमा रहेर लेख्ने प्रयास गर्नुहोस्, थाहा भइसकेका कुरामा धेरै भुमिका नबाँध्नुहोस् । तर्क र तथ्यमा ध्यान दिनुहोस् । तर्क गर्ने स्थापित सभ्य तरिका अपनाउनुहोस् ।

यस किसिमका blogathon ले छलफललाई अरु बढाउने र राम्रो बनाउन सघाउने विश्वास छ । पहिलो ब्लगाथन पछि कमीकमजोरीहरू सुधारेर अरू यस किसिमका छलफल गर्दै गरौँला ।

कारण र प्रेरणा

ट्वीटरमा बहसको परिधि अलि सानो र अप्ठेरो लाग्छ । पत्रिकाहरूका आफ्नै सिमीतता र वाध्यता छन् । हामीहरू बोल्ने सजिलो…

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Learning from Turkish Flight 726 Event

The near-disaster in terms of the skidding aircraft, coupled with the disaster of four days of international airport closure, was also to be seen in terms of how it affected the economy, how it impacted on the image of the country, and the extent of the volume/depth of human suffering.

Kanak Mani Dixit

An interaction called on short notice on Sunday 1:45 pm – 3:15 pm at the YalaMaya Kendra (Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur) deliberated on the details of the Turkish Flight 726 accident at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and the lessons to be learnt. Below is a quick summary of the discussion and some of the conclusions derived from the informal discussion:

a) In terms of the cause of the accident, the overriding question is why the TK726 pilots landed the aircraft instead doing a missed approach (as it had earlier) given the low/minimal visibility at or near runway threshold.
b) Based on available information, there seems to have been a hard landing by TK726, after which the aircraft careened towards the left. Catastrophe was averted due to the aircraft’s front undercarriage digging into the soft/wet ground leading to a relatively ‘controlled’ stoppage rather than a cartwheeling. Another disturbing information that emerged was that for between five to ten minutes (different versions) after the aircraft came to a halt, the crew did not take measures for evacuation, including deploying the escape chutes. Continue reading

Five Quick Questions to Anil Shah on “म नेपाली – हाम्रो नेपाल” event and the campaign

Ashutosh Tiwari asked 5 quick questions to Anil Shah, Facilitator of “म नेपाली – हाम्रो नेपाल” campaign:

1. What exactly is this event and this campaign, and why do you think this is important at this time in Nepal?
ANIL SHAH: The event of Wednesday 4th February 2015 is the commencement of what we refer to as the ‘Ma Movement’, which in effect is based on the philosophy that if we are to truly build a prosperous and peaceful nation each of us has to start individually by being the be227148_225603777456734_349327_nst that we can be.  In the event we will hear from individuals who have excelled in their respective fields as well as from young motivational speakers on how to take hold of positivity to build on an individual’s core competencies to be the best that one can be, in their domain of choice.
The reason for the timing is the environment of negativity and despair that seems to be enveloping the nation now, with the blame game for our collective shortcomings being thrown about and everyone fixating of the faults and failures of each other. At a time like this there has to be a platform that showcases ‘hope’ and we believe the seed of that hope for a better future for our nation starts with each of us individually, with ‘Ma’!

2. Since the end of Jana Andolan 2, we are all — from Mechi ko Mahakali and from the Himalayas to the Tarai — struggling/debating/discussing/arguing/quarreling with one another to define what it means to be a Nepali and what Nepal means to each one of us and to our ethnic group. In this context, your assertion “I am Nepali [in] our Nepal” could strike some as an example of naive patriotism bordering on, well, jingoism. Your response?
ANIL SHAH: Sometimes it is the most naïve and simple thoughts that are the most transformational. Let us take the relationship of a mother with her children, one a doctor, one an engineer, one in politics, one in business, one unemployed, each will have their own strengths and weaknesses, each a unique ‘Ma’ but each will receive the unconditional love of Ama. For her each child is as special as the other. Continue reading

#SecularPakistan: A long walk to unachieved freedom

Amara Shah
UWB/ Guest Blog

unnamed#SecularPakistan was a popular trend on Twitter yesterday. Just like other Twitter users, I tweeted my opinion under this hashtagand immediately got the response in shape of suggestions that either I should leave the citizenship of the country and go to India or shouldn’t raise my voice for secularism.

Unfortunately, if you talk about a secular state in Pakistan, you will be labeled as anti-Pakistan, anti-Islam, against the ideology of Paksitan and pro-India. Ideology of Paksitan is often misunderstood phenomenon in Pakistan.

The seeds of hatred and extremism were sown through textbooks at school, college and even at university levels. I also went through the same education system and have been considering ‘others’ as my enemy.

As Raza Rumi says, “Our textbooks are replete with references to kafirs or infidels. A distorted picture of other religions is presented. Continue reading