Siraha flood victims complain of discrepancies in relief distribution

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Most victims find their names missing from the flood victims roster, despite having submitted their names weeks ago.

Bharat Jargha Magar

On Monday, upon learning about the local unit’s relief distribution drive, Amirika Devi Yadav rushed to the nearby Janata Secondary School, in Ward 4 of Aurahi Rural Municipality. Yadav stood in line in the scorching midday heat for hours only to return empty-handed.

After hours of waiting, she was informed that she was not on the roster of flood victims. Illiterate Yadav asked others to look for her name on the list but they too couldn’t find her name.

“The ward chair and police had noted my name two days after the flood,” said Yadav, who has been taking shelter at her neighbour’s house for three weeks since the floods destroyed her house. “But when I went to receive the relief material, the officials said my name was not on the list.”

Several other victims in Ward-4 of Aurahi Rural Municipality the Post talked to had similar experiences at the distribution drive. On Monday, more than 25 victims returned home with nothing.

The same day, agitated victims gathered outside the ward office, protesting against corrupt practices in relief distribution.

The victims alleged the local representatives of fraud, of listing their kith and kin on the roster even though they were not affected by the floods.

Several municipalities in Siraha were deluged with floodwater from Kamala River. According to District Administration Office, Siraha, a total of 4,005 houses were destroyed by the flood, which had displaced 7,771 households, killing five people.

Days after the disaster, the District Disaster Management Committee had decided to appoint representatives from the police, Red Cross, ward offices and local political leaders to collect the names of the victims. But the team was dominated by political leaders and ward chairs, locals say.

“The relief material was probably for victims like us who have nothing; instead it has been distributed among those who have plenty,” said Rajkumar Raut Kurmi, a local rights activist. “In some cases, there have been political favours. Extending political favours in relief distribution is morally wrong.”

Locals of Sakhuwanankarati Rural Municipality, where about 400 families were affected, also complained about discrepancies in relief distribution in their municipality.

After widespread complaints, the rural municipality has formed a committee, including deputy chair of the rural municipality, and representatives from Red Cross and the media to monitor relief distribution.

Sidhhartha Yadav, chief of the municipality, said that his office has received written complaints. “We will investigate whether there have been shortcomings in the process of collecting names,” said Yadav. “We will make the relief material available to those whose names are missing from the record. None of the actual victims will be left out from receiving the material.”

The provincial government has allocated 25 kg of rice, four kgs of lentil, one mat, one mosquito net, one litre of cooking oil, and two pieces of soaps each to affected families. Red Cross Society has allocated 30 kgs of rice, 4 kg lentil, a blanket and tent to each household.

Chief District Officer Gopal Kumar Adhikari admitted to the discrepancy about data collection. “Yes, we have found some discrepancy in data collection, but we are also correcting it,” he said. “In some cases, even the ward chairs are found to be responsible for the mistake, but we are re-assessing data.”