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Rice from Bangladesh for quake victims mismanaged

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Jhapa, May 18, 2016: Rice stored in Jhapa district after being received as grant aid from Bangladesh for the benefit of earthquake victims has been mismanaged, it is learnt.

Instead of making the rice available to the earthquake victims, the government has started sending it elsewhere for sale, sources claimed.

Meanwhile, earthquake-affected people who are still living under tents and temporary shelters are set to see the rice meant for them.

According to the Birtamod-based office of Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), the rice had been dumped in the NFC godown for nearly a year. Earlier, the government had come in for widespread criticism for dumping thousands of quintals of rice in godowns at a time when the quake-hit districts were facing an acute shortage of food. At the time, staff at the local administration and NFC in Jhapa had responded that they were awaiting instructions from higher authorities.

Surprisingly, the government had maintained a silence since last year about the rice from Bangladesh. The government finally last month ordered NFC to send the rice elsewhere than to the quake-hit districts. The district administration and NFC officials were astonished by this.

“We’ll have to send the rice wherever the government orders us to,” NFC storekeeper Yagya Pratap Adhikari told Republica. “So, we’ve moved the rice toward Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj, Surkhet and Gorkha.”

Meanwhile, Yadav Koirala, spokesman of the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that the Central Disaster Management and Rescue Committee under the ministry decided to instruct NFC to distribute the rice to other areas. “The committee decided to allow NFC to distribute the rice on condition that a required quantity shall always be available in storage and that the rice can be provided as and when needed,” said Koirala.

Based on the same decision, the Ministry of Supply instructed NFC to distribute quantities of the rice to other areas, said Anandram Regmi, spokesman at that ministry.

Following the government’s order, NFC has already started sending the rice to the four different locations since Friday. The rice is about to reach their destinations, according to storekeeper Adhikari. Of the four destinations, Gorkha is the only earthquake-affected district and the quantity of rice sent there is less than elsewhere.

The government has sent 12,000 quintals of rice to Dhangadhi, 20,000 quintals to Nepalgunj, 20,000 quintals to Surkhet and 5,000 quintals to Gorkha. Only 5,000 quintals of the grant rice is left in Jhapa and this will also be dispatched as per the government’s decision.

NFC officials informed that the rice has been handed over to different transport agencies for delivery. However, a source claimed that the rice has been sent to Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj, Surkhet and Gorkha for sale.

“If this rice is for sale, it will be a shameful act,” said Krishna Acharya, a local youth who has been pressing for dispatching the rice to the quake-affected.

Bangladesh had provided 100,000 quintals of rice as a grant for earthquake victims. Of this, 40,000 quintals was delivered earlier to the quake-hit areas, government officials claim.

Bangladesh to send another consignment

After three days, Bangladesh is going to send another consignment of rice to Nepal as grant. Although 100,000 quintals of the grant rice will be kept at NFC’s Birtamod and Chandragadhi godowns, the government has yet to decide where it will be sent onwards.

District based officials suspect that the next consignment could also be mismanaged in similar fashion.