Nepal, food, rice, corruption, Rajneesh Bhandari

There are food shortages ever year in rural Nepal. The Nepal Government has been selling subsidies rice in these remote areas to ease the pain.  But Asia Calling investigations have found there is mismanagement and political manipulation of the food supply.

Moga Bohara walked for three days to reach the districts food headquarters. A widow and mother of five she needed to buy rice at a reduced price.

After 10 days in the town of Simikot, she got 30 kilograms of rice—one stack.  She says this will fed her family for less than a month.

“Even if we come to Simikot district, we don’t get rice easily.  We are deceived. We feel like the government has abandoned us,” said Moga. 

The rice she brought is 10 Rs cheaper than the normal price. That’s around 10 US cents.

Many people I spoke to here say the government run store is often out of rice.

There is just not enough.  The Nepal food corporation delivers 12.9 metric tons of rice a year to the Humla area.  Demand is three times that amount. 

Rani Pariyar is from the Thehe village a days walk from Simikot.

“Many times we return empty handed, and sometimes we even have to fight to get food. The department shop is closed most of the time,” said Rani.

It’s a very different picture from the one who will get from politicians in Kathmandu.

The Nepalese government says that its food corporation has been distributing cheap rice in 23 districts since the 1970s.

The program has been supported by the Japanese government who has given nearly 100 million dollars to the program since the 1970s.

Karnajit Budathoki, a local Maoist leader says the system is corrupt.

“Those having access to politics, administration, and business sectors get food easily compared to common people. People are not getting food. There is irregularity in food distribution,” said Karnajit.
The head of the local department of the Nepal food corporation Bhim Thapa, admits there has been ‘mismanagement’.

 “There is some reality in the allegations relating to mismanagement in the distribution of food materials. It is difficult to distribute food as it is in demand. We are heavily influenced by politics. Political parties tend to control the distribution. Political parties were found to be giving cheat sheets,” admits Bhum Thapa.

An official at the food office showed me some of the documents that direct food officers to give rice to people supporting their political party.

They come mainly from the last election.

Four out of ten children in Humla suffer from malnutrition according to a recent government reports.

Tirtha Raj Rokaya, a former Village Development Committee Secretary believes the government should put more money into helping farmers produce more food.

“Modern agricultural technology is not emphasized and local agricultural production is also not modernized and this is one of the major reasons why there is food crisis in the district,” explained Tirtha Raj Rokaya.

For now Rani Pariyar from the Thehe village continues to rely on unreliable government rice.

“We are bound to put our children to sleep hungry twice or three times a month.”

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