Category Archives: Nepal Earthquake 2015

Pictures show how Nepal is coping with the inhumane blockade by India

– by NepalForeignAffairs.com team

The Indian blockade of Nepal (#IndiaBlockadesNepal) has been running for over three months now. Being landlocked, most of Nepal’s imports come via India. Although international laws provide landlocked countries the right to unrestricted passage to the sea, India has been unquestioned by the international community on the way it is putting an entire country of about 28 million in “ventilator support”, in the words of senior Indian journalist Anil Yadav. The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis, apart from economic and political ones.

[Related: India puts Nepal on ventilator support by blockading the country’s imports (BBC Report)]

By blockading Nepal, India is supporting a group of protesters in Central Terai of Nepal. The blockade has caused massive suffering to people all over the country. Economy has been destroyed and might take years to recover. Jobs have been lost, investors have pulled out, major infrastructure and development projects have been badly affected and put out-of-schedule, and education of millions of kids has been disrupted. Industries have closed because of lack of security and raw material supply. Vaccination programs have also been disrupted. This shows the scale of suffering Nepal is facing because of the inhumane blockade by India.

The Modi government, together with Indian bureaucrats, diplomats, and intelligence officers have especially taken a harsh position, advocating that India should continue to pressurize Nepal this way.

Below, we present a selection of pictures and tweets to illustrate some of the hardships Nepali people have been put through by the blockade on Nepal by its big southern neighbor India.

    • Blockade is killing people

      Amit Yadav, a kid from Eastern Terai, died because he could not visit a hospital for monthly checkup. Amit happens to be Madhesi-origin. Transportation has halted, especially in Eastern Terai but also elsewhere because of the blockade by India and the protests in some parts of Nepal that it has strengthened.

      UNICEF has reported than millions of kids are in grave danger of death, disease and malnutrition because of the blockade by India.

      The protesters have burnt several ambulances. The pictures in the tweet above show two vandalized ambulance. The first one was carrying a kid in critical condition, who died because of the protesters.

    • Earthquake victims have a harder time

      Several earthquake victims have died this week due to cold. Earthquake victims cannot buy food, fuel, and construction material to build shelters because of the blockade. They are having to sleep outside. A harsh winter in the hills is worsening their condition. Nepal suffered two big earthquakes earlier this year, before India blockaded imports, making it almost impossible for relief to reach earthquake victims. Humanitarian organizations cannot operate under such lack of essentials.

    • Old people fight a harsh winter

      Lack of fuel to eat and heat is making lives harder for elderly people. This woman is carrying cooking gas after a long wait. Indian blockade has made essential supplies harder to get.

      A 85-year old man walked for hours and waited on a long queue to get some firewood. Because of the shortage of fuel, the government sold limited quantity of firewood by cutting forests.

    • Health crisis due to lack of essential medicines

      Several patients are dying because of lack of essential medicines and supplies. Hospitals cannot operate properly due to the blockade.

    • Hospitals are dysfunctional

      Many hospitals are operating under capacity and have stopped surgeries because of lack of supplies and essentials. In rural areas, simple medicines are also unavailable.

      The following picture shows food being prepared for patients using firewood in one of the largest hospitals of Kathmandu.

      The following picture shows people queuing up for medicines.

    • Kids cannot study

      Schools have been closed for months. In the Terai, school kids are used by protesters for violent protests and vandalism. Elsewhere, schools cannot operate because of lack of fuel and other essentials. The following placard reads “Live and let us study.”

      Kids are collecting essentials for their families. In the following picture, they are carrying firewood as fuel has become scarce.

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      Picture: Sunil Pradhan – Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
    • Violence and vandalism strengthened by blockade

      The blockade has strengthened and supported a violent protest going on in the Terai region of Nepal. Protesters attack journalists, police and ordinary citizens with Molotov Cocktails. Even Indian police has entered Nepali territory and fired at Nepali citizens and police.

      A Madhesi lawmaker was attacked by the protesters. Several other political parties and people with differing opinion are regularly threatened and attacked in the protest areas. Protesters have almost banned political activities and campaigns by other parties. The President of Nepal was also humiliated and attacked by protesters.

      Ordinary Madhesi are also suffering because of the Indian blockade that has strengthened a violent protest in the Terai region. In the first picture below, the protesters burnt a moterbike, along with its owner Dilip Chaudhary. The second picture shows Bablu Rajbanshi burnt by the protesters.

      [Related: Nepal: Madhesi groups have the highest representation in government jobs.]

      Picture: Chuman Basnet/Republica
      Picture: Chuman Basnet/Republica

      Trucks, including those carrying medicines, are burnt by the protesters.

    • Human rights violation by police and protesters

      The blockade has strengthened the violent protests, which has invited state police to safeguard highways and public property. Protest organizers have publicly provoked and called for violence and use of weapons. In retaliation, police action has sometimes been brutal and in violation of human rights. Several protesters and onlookers have been killed by police action. On the other hand, several police personnel and civilians have been attacked, lynched and killed by the protesters. The picture below shows a Madhesi family holding a picture of their dead son.

      Picture: Jaydev Paudel
      Picture: Jaydev Paudel
    • Violence and Tension at the Nepal-India border

      Indian border police beat up Nepali police personnel and confiscate pistol.

      In the following pictures, this side of the gate is Nepal and the other side is India. Stones are being pelted on Nepal police personnel from the Indian side of the border. In the first picture, Indian security personnel are standing guard at the border, providing security to the attackers.

    • Back to firewood

      People are now cooking on firewood for months. Nepal has been pushed back to pre-industrial era by the Indian blockade.

    • Lack of food and cooking fuel

      There’s acute shortage of cooking gas and food supplies. Restaurants have modified their menu because of the blockade. Only limited items not requiring a lot of fuel are on offer in restaurants. Many are cooking on firewood. Several businesses have closed permanently, leaving many jobless during festival season and the ensuing winter.

      [Related: #IndiaBlockadesNepal: A serious humanitarian crisis will be hard to avoid, says WFP]

      Picture: Shubhra Dixit
      Picture: Shubhra Dixit

       

    • Travel has become scary

      Traveling has become very scary and deadly. There are much fewer buses running and most of them are packed beyond capacity. Protesters regularly vandalize passengers, buses and private property. Because of lack of fuel, traveling conditions are harsher than usual, resulting in increased accidents and added difficulty for the elderly, sick, women and children. Buses carry petrol in small cans, adding the risk of fire and death. As seen in the pictures, passengers including small kids are forced to travel with great risk on top of buses

      Protesters emboldened by the Indian blockade regularly destroy buses plying in the Eastern Terai, in a gross violation of human rights. Almost all buses traveling there have damaged windows and windscreen. Many people have been injured and killed during the violence meted out against innocent travelers on highways. Buses often travel without any windscreen, making it extremely chilly and uncomfortable inside. Travel is possible only at night, and every night passengers are greeted with stones, Molotov cocktails and other objects thrown at them.

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      Picture: cri.cn, from @Jaw_Knock’s tweet
    • Queues everywhere

    • Struggle to eat and to get fuel to cook

      People sleeping on the road for days, waiting their turn to get supplies of cooking gas.

      Picture: Bharat Bandhu Thapa
      Picture: Bharat Bandhu Thapa
      Picture: Skanda Gautam/Zuma Press
      Picture: Skanda Gautam/Zuma Press

      In this picture, an international cricketer of Nepal is seen at the arrival lounge of Nepal’s airport with an electric induction stove. He bought it while on a trip overseas. Those who can afford have switched to such electric heaters because cooking gas is no more available in the market.

    • Goodwill between neighbors is lost as younger generations witness Indian aggression

      Indians are not at risk in Nepal. Nepalis have remained calm throughout the blockade and been sensible to separate the ordinary Indian people from their brutal and bully government.

      But while previous generations faced several Indian blockades and harbored a generally hostile attitude towards Indian intentions in Nepal, the newer generations were more open and cosmopolitan in nature. Now that they have witnessed the Indian aggression at a very difficult time in their country’s history, the sense of optimism has suffered a great setback. People are very discouraged and this will reflect directly in the coming generations’ view of their big neighbor to the South. There have been several spontaneous protests and social media campaigns against the blockade both in Nepal and in the cities of Europe or USA with large Nepali diaspora.

      Picture: Vishal Arora
      Picture: Vishal Arora

      Modi more destructive than the earthquake?
      Modi more destructive than the earthquake?
    • Vulgar politics at display

      The blockade has put to display Nepal’s own ugly sides. Nepal’s politics is messy, like in many similar countries. Here are some examples.

      A professor defends the burning of ambulances and death of kids because of protesters blocking ambulances as needing to be seen “in a context”. This is very much reminiscent of how the violence unleashed by Maoist rebels during their insurgency was defended by its apologists.

      [Related: Did UN official accused of bias by Israel protect Maoist violence in Nepal? (Exclusive book excerpts)]

      Former Prime Minister and Maoist politician Baburam Bhattarai leads a group of so-called “civil society leaders”, which includes Dr Devendra Raj Pandey, CK Lal, Krishna Hachhethu, Pitambar Sharma etc. Bhattarai is a seasoned politician and the ideologue of the violent Maoist insurgency. He hardly fits the generally accepted definition of “civil society member”. But currently his cohort is cashing on the Indian blockade to revive his political career in the guise of a new political force. Bhattarai resigned from his parliamentary seat immediately after the promulgation of constitution, showing neglect to the people of his constituency, who are among the worst hit earthquake victims. He was also one of the leading politicians involved in the drafting of Constitution.

      At other events, similar group of “civil society members” has gone so far as to say that Nepal is to be blamed for everything and India has imposed no blockade. This group includes the likes of Daman Nath Dhungana, Sundar Mani Dixit, CK Lal, Lokraj Baral. They were speaking at events organized by or in the presence of Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Mr. Ranjit Rae. Many in Nepal allege they work in tandem with the Indian bureaucracy and intelligence agencies to do a “narrative control” in Nepal. Perhaps, this is what observers meant while referring to the many “covert and overt” weapons India has at its disposal against Nepal ?

      [Related: Debunking Dr. Karan Singh’s misinformed comments on Nepal at the Indian Parliament]

      The level of disrespect and interference in Nepal’s internal politics by India has gone so far that the blockade started with India demanding changes to Nepal’s newly drafted constitution. This headline from Indian Express just before the blockade began.

      [Related: Demistifying India’s propaganda on Nepal’s Madhes]

    • Indian Express headline before the blockade
      Indian Express headline before the blockade

      While there is vehement denial of the blockade by Indian government, its operatives in Nepal and some of Nepal’s civil society members, enough evidence has been produced that show India is actively and directly forcing a blockade on Nepal. This is a picture of supply trucks queuing up at the Indian side of the border. Such queues stretch several kilometers and Indian security force selectively allow trucks to pass. Trucks carrying fuel are stopped on purpose. Indian journalist Anil Yadav produced a series of reports this month from a town near Nepal-India border.

      [Related: A controlled Indian blockade on Neal (BBC report from a border town)]

      Picture: Manoj Singh
      Picture: Manoj Singh

The performance of Nepal’s own government has been very lackadaisical. A weak coalition cobbled up after the blockade apparently against India’s wishes, shows no creativity or initiative to make things easier for the people. Government ministers and the Prime Minister are frustrating the ordinary people with their rhetoric full of lofty dreams but no matching action. In all this, the opposition party sees an opportunity to replace the government formed just months ago.

The following cartoon published in a Nepali newspaper shows the Prime Minister busy talking, doing nothing.

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#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 #NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

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: How can private businesses provide help?

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)