Hira Bahadur Thapa
Coincidentally, this scribe had an opportunity to visit the US in the immediate wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 that killed more than 9,000 people, injured almost 22,000 people and left many more homeless. Then a strong sentiment of helping one’s countrymen was demonstrably visible among the diaspora Nepali people in the US and other foreign countries.
Not surprisingly, I found many Nepali communities in different cities of America engaged in raising funds in order to send the donation to the Prime Minister’s Central Relief Fund so that they could lessen the hardships faced by the victims of the natural disaster. Whether that amount, collected from the hard-working Nepalese and transferred to the Nepal government fund, has been properly utilised or not is a debatable question, given the fact that the so-called major parties have not yet resolved their differences related to the National Reconstruction Authority, which is to handle billions of rupees amassed in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Lately, the media has reported that the KP Sharma government has temporarily entrusted the task of the Reconstruction Authority to the National Planning Commission, whose newly-appointed vice-chairman belongs to the ruling party, an issue that is likely to irk the Nepali Congress, which has blamed the UML for obstructing the functioning of the earthquake-related authority.
The lingering lack of trust between the country’s two largest political parties, which were astonishingly united while passing legislation concerning the new constitution, including its issuance, has cost Nepal dearly. The deteriorating Nepal-India relations have proved to be another disaster impeding the nation’s development, the actual financial losses accruing from which can outweigh those of the April 25 earthquake. More painfully, the damaged bilateral relations have made our lives very difficult with acute shortages of essentials like cooking gas and medicines.
There is still debate among the intellectuals of this country if the present disruption of supplies to Nepal via the Birgunj-Raxual transit point is an evidence of India’s implied economic blockade, because the neighbour has been arguing that impediment of the movement of tankers is due to the dharnas of the Madhesi parties on the border, which our government has refuted consistently. The ground reality is that we have been forced to survive with inadequate supplies of daily necessities, and one can gauge our hardship from the serpentine queues of cooking gas cylinders in different cities in Nepal although transportation vehicles, including taxis, have been seen plying on the roads in increasing numbers in the last few days.
The efforts of our government to internationalise the issue of the blockade both at the multilateral and bilateral forums have yielded no fruitful results as evidenced at the recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the Nepalese people have been shocked to see the indifference displayed by one of our oldest friends with whom our bilateral relations were established about two centuries ago.
Nepal’s Foreign Ministry’s feeble endeavours to protest the inclusion of a language that implies some weaknesses in the new constitution in the joint press release issued at the end of the Indian prime minister’s visit to the UK should remind us how ineffective our conduct of foreign policy vis-à-vis persuading the friendly countries to obtain their support to the constitution, which we claim to be the best with endorsement from the largest majorities of the Constituent Assembly, is.
Let me now revisit the original point of fund-raising which is an act of charity. Disasters, whether natural or man-made, induce us to become more charitable when we begin to feel that others’ suffering is similar to ours. This is why we have seen a number of instances in Nepal, then in the wake of the earthquake, when many of us, especially the youngsters, came forward voluntarily not only in cleaning the debris of collapsed buildings but also collecting donations and distributing essentials to the earthquake victims even in the remote parts of Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk districts, the most hard-hit areas of Nepal.
At times we felt that all Nepalese people, whether a politician with a bungalow and an expensive car or a daily labourer earning less than two dollars a day, were members of the same family to whom death was merciless equally as demonstrated in the collapse of high-rise buildings, resulting in thousands of deaths. Everyone seemed to be helpful to the other, empathising with the sorrows and pains of the fellow countrymen. This sentiment was so powerfully visible among the Nepali people living abroad that they donated generously in whatever capacity they could to provide essentials to the victims of the earthquake.
My visit to the US (May-October) was marked by the donation campaign that I personally wanted to launch, propelled by the crumbling primary school building in Parbat, my native district. Whenever I appealed to the Nepali organisations like Greater Saint Louis Nepali Chautari or Association of Nepalese in Mid-east America for donations, the uniform response was that this year they were concentrated on raising and donating funds to the earthquake-hit areas, meaning they wanted to help the most needy victims whose lives were endangered. Their priorities were understandable, and hence I struck a plan of charity, run through which I could collect some funds in the US to help rebuild the earthquake-damaged primary school building in Nepal.
As I was staying with my children in Saint Louis, I decided to take part in the Missouri Race Series which conducted as many as eight races in a year. I opted for a 10 K (6.25 miles) race on September 13 and appealed to all for donations to help reconstruct the school building. A donation collecting company was requested to do the job, and that company (Go Fund Me.Com) took 8.25% of the donated amount as its service charge.
Happily, I successfully completed that race in 60 minutes, coming third among the competitors in the age group (60-69), and until October 31, 2015, the deadline for collecting donations, the amount totaled almost 3,500 dollars, which I handed over to the School Management Committee chairman of Bhawani Vidyapeeth HSS, Phalewash on November 4.
My experience in the above endeavour makes it obvious that one can raise funds for beneficial activities, provided one’s intentions are genuine and one can convince the prospective donors that the collected amount will be properly utilised so that the targeted community benefits.
The Rising Nepal, 2 December 2015