Politicians seek mileage from India-Nepal flood havoc (News Analysis)

September 3rd, 2008 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 3 (IANS) As tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border continue to suffer due to the havoc created by the raging Saptakosi river in Nepal and India, politicians from both countries are trying to gain mileage from the disaster.While Nepal is blaming India for the ravages and demanding compensation, India is accusing Nepal of having failed to provide security to the Indian team entrusted with maintaining the barrage on the river, whose breaching caused one of the worst flooding in recent years.

Closer home, the rival parties in Nepal as well as Bihar, the Indian state that has borne the brunt of the flood with over three million left homeless, are engaged in a blame game.

The disaster itself received impetus from the bitter rivalry between two Nepali parties, though they are partners in the ruling alliance.

The contractor employed by the Bihar government’s irrigation department to repair the Kosi barrage in Nepal’s Sunsari district along the India-Nepal border had sought to hire local labourers.

Sunsari is the stronghold of debutant Terai party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF). Along with a local contractor loyal to the MJF, the Maoist strong arm, the Young Communist League, vied to grab the contract for providing local labour and the MJF won.

Consequently, when the Indian team tried to reach the site, they were prevented by the YCL, who also blocked the road to obstruct the passage of construction material requited to repair the weakening spurs of the barrage.

Though the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu hinted at the lack of security in a press statement it issued last month to refute claims of Indian negligence, the statement did not spell out YCL’s name as the cause for the lack of security as it would have been politically incorrect, with the Maoists coming to power.

Initially, the third large party in the alliance - the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) - called for an investigation. However, now it has dropped the demand and has joined the chorus against India.

In India, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) party of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav promptly joined the fray to embarrass its rival Nitish Kumar’s government in Bihar and announced his intention to visit Nepal to discuss the flood situation with Nepal’s new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and President Ram Baran Yadav.

However, neither water resources nor agriculture is the Indian minister’s responsibility. Nor is the Nepali president, who holds a ceremonial post, mandated to interfere in the working of the government.

In fact, according to the district officials in Sunsari, VVIP visits hamper rescue and rehabilitation work with the administration having to dance attendance on the high-profile visitors.

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