The Land Grabbers

D.M. Thapa

There was a major news in a media outlet of how some individuals grabbed and sold the land of a person amounting to more than seven hundred million rupees. This was outrageous for people who barely can afford to buy a few anas of land, that is about a couple of hundred square feet, in Kathmandu. The police in this case caught the culprits, but there are many cases when individuals have gotten away with grabbing other people’s land and nobody has been able to do anything, including the land owner.

Value
From America to Australia and especially smaller countries like Japan, United Kingdom and South Korea among others, land is of premium value. In the lesser developed countries in South Asia also, people feel safer by having land rather than money. Even in an emerging economic giant like India, land is considered most valuable. Buying land in the major cities of India is almost unimaginable. But whether the US, UK and other Western countries admit it or not, they also grabbed land all over the world. They outwitted the original habitants through wily tactics and used stronger firepower when they felt this had to be done. The Red Indians in what is now America, the aborigines of Australia and hundreds of tribal communities in Africa are mute witness to how thousands of acres of their land was grabbed by the Westerners, who now talk about peace and human rights, when they were the first people to disturb peace and severely violate human rights of others in distant places.
In Nepal also there was a lot of land grabbing right from the old days, but land was also distributed to favoured individuals in different places. However the real land “mafias” mushroomed and grew like weeds in the rainy season, when they started getting political protection and some political leaders themselves got involved in transferring public land in their names. There are many political leaders and bureaucrats, who have indulged in such crimes, and many people know this, the media knows this, but nobody dares to take the name of such criminals.
Kathmandu is still beautiful because of its good weather and heritage sites, but it would have been much, much more beautiful if there were more open spaces and greenery like there was before. This author having seen the old Kathmandu with less vehicles, no concrete jungles and lush green fields almost at all places has harped on this issue many times, but now it seems no one listened and no one heeded such advice. Also a time has come when there is a point of no return as those who have settled here built houses, cannot be resettled elsewhere. Of course everyone has a right to own a house in Kathmandu and live here where all the basics, like health care, educational institutions, the only international airport of the country and all government offices among others, are situated. But the planners could have done better if they had managed this growth in a better manner. Now it is virtually impossible to make Kathmandu the quaint and quiet place it was which both local and foreigners looked at it with awe. It has become an unmanageable concrete jungle, with vehicles running down narrow streets and water getting clogged even in midtown areas with wide streets and a messy place with political protests and criminal activities taking place almost all the time, like in many other bigger cities of the developed countries. One really feels sad in seeing this once most of the beautiful cities in the world being turned into a dusty, polluted, dirty and unmanageable place.
This is all because of lack of vision, greedy politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and individuals willing to grab any open space and construct small plots of land and small roads to make money.
For example, let us go back to where we started about the report of some individuals selling the land of another person to the tune of seven hundred million rupees! It was good that these fraudsters were arrested. But everyone knows how difficult it is to buy or sell land because of government red tape in different departments. The Land Revenue Department, the Land Reforms Department and the Survey Department all have to be approached with written applications and under their vigilant eyes only such selling and buying process can be conducted. Even neighbours and close relatives have to give consent. There are so many rules, but if proper hands are greased, then there is no problem. So shouldn’t the authorities who were the officials who allowed such a fraud to take place be punished? Shouldn’t these officials be given the harshest of punishments?
I know a person who had to go to the malpot (land revenue) and survey office for almost three months just to put on paper what was his own land. Besides, he had to bring twelve witnesses to confirm that the land was his own. And I am talking about this person who had this land within his own walled compound. When it is so hard to convince these officials to say his land belongs to him, how can other individual so quietly take away the land of others?
It is an open secret that like the Nepal Police, Nepal Army, the Customs Department, the three departments of Land Survey, Land Reforms and land revenue are the most corrupt institutions of the government, but why aren’t these corrupt officials punished? Naturally the whole department may not be corrupt but the majority of the officials specially dealing on land issues are vastly corrupt, but nobody has been able to do anything to them, including the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

Plight

There are numerous cases of how people have been cheated of their land by these so called land “mafias” with the help of the concerned government officials and also the private banks which willingly gave them loans just for the sake of profit, not giving a hoot about the plight of individuals who were losing ancestral property and sometimes their hard earned land as well.
So, only making difficult regulations for the ordinary people is not enough, those who exploit the regulations for their own benefit, whether they are politicians, their relatives, the banks, the land mafias and specially the officials of the three departments connected with selling, registering and buying of lands should also be punished. Otherwise innocent people will continue to suffer and these criminals will benefit on such individual’s plight.

 

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