4 MIN READ
On April 24, 2016, exactly a year after the 2015 earthquake, Prime Minister K.P. Shama Oli launched the reconstruction campaign by laying the foundation stone for the house of Sarita Tamang in Chautara, Sindhupalchok. Sarita Tamang talks about the media spectacle that surrounded Oli laying the foundation stone, and the subsequent absence of government support during the actual construction work
The earthquake struck in ‘72, and we started rebuilding in Baishak of ‘73. That’s when K. P. Oli came to lay the foundation stone. He was apparently supposed to go somewhere else, to someone else’s house, but they said it was too far for K.P. Oli. He wasn’t well and couldn’t travel that much. We had cleared all the rubble from our land because we wanted to start rebuilding our home so when they proposed that the Prime Minister was going to lay the foundation I thought, why not?
On the day K.P. Oli came here to lay the foundation a lot of police officers, army personnel, government bosses and peons from government offices were around. They sent people to arrange everything, clean up, and put up a tent. One man from the District Development Committee initially told us to clean the path leading to the house for the Prime Minister, they also said that we had to bring the cement and the four bricks they needed for the event ourselves. A small hole needed to be dug to lay the foundation stone and they told us we that to do that ourselves as well. And I said, “If you cannot even provide the bare minimum for the event then why are you doing it in the first place?” What difference does it make to us that the Prime Minister laid the foundation if it won’t be of any real help to us? It was all just for show. I got really angry that day.
The Prime Minister laying the foundation was not really helpful to us. We built the house by ourselves, we needed a place to live anyway. First they said that they would send CTEVT trained people to help us build the house and a few of them did come for about three months. But we had to hire local masons and electricians ourselves. We also had to get the architectural drawings made ourselves. My husband went to the municipality and V.D.C. himself to get those drawings made. The whole thing was quite a headache.
Our’s was the first house in the area that was built but now everyone has pretty much finished building their houses. The only benefit of K.P. Oli laying the foundation for our house was that we did not have to go looking for government engineers. I think K.P. Oli was afraid that the house he laid the foundation for would not be completed in time so they kept sending engineers from the municipality to check up on us. Everyone else had to go and request the engineers to visit but we did not have to do that. I think it was more for them than for us. They wanted to make sure that the house K.P. Oli officially started the reconstruction process for was completed on time. But it is not like he built the house for us, it was our house and we had to work hard to get it built.
The people from the reconstruction authority and from the municipality visited us frequently but their visits weren’t helpful. Every time they came the construction work got interrupted because they kept telling us to change things. The construction workers got distracted with every visit because every person who came told us to do something different, to change something different, and it made the whole process much longer than we anticipated.
We were only given 3 lakh rupees by the government, which is the sum that they gave everybody else. Our old house was a mud and stone house, this one is a proper cement house so it is nicer and more comfortable. We spent about 30-35 lakhs to build this house. Besides the 3 lakhs that the government provided we had to get the rest together ourselves. We aren’t people who have that kind of money at hand but we worked hard. To be honest, the P.M. laying the foundation for our house was more of a hassle than anything else. Officers from the District Development Committee and VDC came by pretty regularly and kept pushing us to build faster. Because of the pressure we ended up digging the foundation for the pillars in the monsoon but it was raining so much that the foundation we dug kept getting buried with mud. It ended up costing us more than it would have otherwise because we were paying the workers Rs.1000-Rs.1500 of wages per day.
There were also a lot of journalists who used to come. Everyone wanted to take a picture of the house K.P. Oli laid the foundation for. They seem to think that K.P. Oli built our house for us but we were the ones who actually built it. Instead of helping they came and bothered us, made us tear down and rebuild pillars because it did not meet their standards. K.P. Oli is just like any other politician. I thought maybe he would understand people’s plight but he only cares about himself.
Translated from Nepali by: Alok Adhikari
Sarita Tamang Sarita Tamang is a resident of Chautara, Sindhupalchwok. Her house was destroyed in the earthquake of 2015, and rebuilt in 2017.
5 min read
Victims of the 2015 earthquake in Dolakha have rebuilt their homes in areas where they could be decimated any day
19 min read
Personal reflections on the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and possible lessons for Nepal
8 min read
Laprak was heavily damaged during the earthquake; its fate now hangs in the balance
6 min read
Survivors resort to their own funds to rebuild
1 min read
Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights
3 min read
Parallels with another Great Earthquake in 1934
9 min read
Unless Nepal comprehensively overhauls its disaster response mechanisms, we’ll continue to see the nation reeling with every crisis
4 min read
In the wake of the quake, it’s politics as usual