October 13, 2015
"Harsh" terms and conditions and "way too lavish" guidelines by quake-hit Nepal has forced an Indian NGO to abandon its ambitious reconstruction plans for the Himalayan country.
The NGO, Bhartiya Jain Sanghatna (BJS), which was planning to build 100 health posts in the country, has now wound up its operations after the authorities refused to tone down the stiff conditions. (For more information about BJS, see below.)
BJS head Shantilal Muttha said the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Health and Planning had made it an "insurmountable challenge" to complete the task and has also raised the issue with the Indian embassy in Kathmandu.
He said the list of facilities, which were required to be incorporated in the project, were "way too lavish". These, he said, included granite finish on all tops of work counters, besides heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Other facilities the Nepalese authorities wanted to be included were marble floor for corridors, waiting spaces and staircase treads, besides carpets in the office space and conference room, solar heating system, solar back-up generators, hospital waste management plan and fire safety considerations.
"The MoHP has mandated the provision of certain facilities for a health post which are practically impossible for an NGO to fulfill while providing reconstruction services free of cost. As per our survey/records/photographs even the existing healthcare services in Nepal do not provide such facilities through a health post.
"The Nepal authorities also put the onus of taking a public hearing on us in the village we intended to build the posts. How can we do that in a foreign country? We were left with no option, but to wind up the operation," Muttha, founder of the BJS said.
When contacted Dr P V Chand, In-charge of Policy, Planning and International Cooperation, Nepal, said the Ministry of Health and Planning was looking into the matter.
The NGO has alleged the Nepal government has also not paid any heed to its demand for exemption from import duty currently being levied at 20 per cent on prefabricated material being transported from India to the calamity-hit country.
"The responsibility of the selection of land for health post along with the verification of the ownership status of government-owned land has been entrusted to the implementing agency/NGO. The implementing agency is also expected to hold negotiations and public hearing for verifying the ownership status of donated land. It must arrange for a public hearing to be held where there is new construction and the acquisition of land is involved.”
BJS and its founder Shantilal G. Muttha
BJS's education wing, the Federation of Jain Educational Institutes (FJEI), has over 1,800 educational institutes across India within its network. Through advancing a number of educational innovations, FJEI is helping to reorient educational institutions to ensure that they are in tune with today’s world, and follows a conviction that education goes beyond only academic knowledge to also include an understanding and adoption of human values in terms of moral, ethical, spiritual and social components. Furthermore, BJS has exhibited a unique social empathy and deep understanding of the impediments on the path of development as it carries on its work. BJS has accomplished a lot in the area of disaster relief, often coupled with the rebuilding of the educational infrastructure. BJS and its workers and volunteers helped with relief efforts Mr. Mutthaattached to the Gujarat Earthquake, the Latur Earthquake, and the Tsunami that hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, among other disasters. Volunteers have reached affected areas within hours of the tragedies, tons of relief materials have been brought to the scenes of destruction, hundreds of schools have been rebuilt, food, shelter and medical aid provided, and primary health centers established. In Gujarat alone, 368 schools were rebuilt, erected from the rubble in a record time of 90 days.
BJS’s Founder President, Shantilal G. Muttha, is a major Indian entrepreneur who became a social transformer. He is an individual of whom it has been said in the media that he “built up his own empire (both of business and social service) from virtually nothing.” For the past 20 years and more, he has ploughed a major portion of his company’s profits into the BJS.