Plan to introduce strict cross-verification measures

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KATHMANDU, JUN 12 – The Home Ministry is planning to introduce rigorous cross-verification measures to ascertain the authenticity ofearthquake victims . Such measures are aimed at discouraging the irregularities in aid distribution.

The local administrations in the earthquake-affected districts, including Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot and Dhading, have come across many fake victims and multiple registrants during relief distribution. The Home Ministry hopes to curb such unscrupulous behaviours by introducing the cross-verification system.

“We have been able to trace discrepancies in many cases. There is a need to strengthen the verification process,” said Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesperson of the ministry.

The ministry sources said political meddling at the grassroots level was the main reason for such irregularities.

Maintaining transparency and fairness in aid distribution has become difficult in the absence of local bodies.

The scale of irregularities is so huge in districts like Nuwakot and Sindhupalchok that almost a third of the applicants who have signed up as the quake-victims are believed to be fake.

In Nuwakot, for instance, more than 76,000 families have come forward claiming to be theearthquake victims , though the 2012 census had put the number of families in the district at 59,000. Because of this discrepancy, the local administration has been unable to distribute ID cards and cash relief to the victims.

Similarly in Sindhupalchok, the total number of applicants is expected to exceed 150,000, though the census figure shows that there are 66,648 households in the district.

According to District Development Office, Sindhupalchok, around 100,000 ID cards were sent to two municipalities and 59 VDCs while 50,000 IDs are in the process of being dispatched to nine other VDCs.

Like Sindhupalchok, other districts are also distributing the relief and ID cards, regardless of the discrepancies.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs (MoLDFA) say political meddling has made it difficult for the local authorities to carry out their work in an impartial manner.

According to them, dispute within the political parties and division of victims on various political fronts is also creating hostile work environment for the workers.

Many VDC secretaries in Sindhupalchok are leaving their assigned areas following pressure and threat from the locals and the politicians to distribute the ID cards and relief amount on their say-so.

“As the in charge of the relief distribution works, the Home Ministry should look into the matter,” said MoLDFA Secretary Somlal Subedi.

Some observers say that lack of clear demarcation of authority among the related stakeholders at the centre is also making the work difficult.

In a recent report, the High-level Administration Reform and Monitoring Committee has stated that many earthquake victims , especially those living in remote areas, have still not received food and emergency supplies as a result of irregularities and political meddling in relief distribution.