Tuesday, 25 June, 2024

Catch Land Grabbers

Land is key to the sustenance of human beings. Relations between land and people are deep and interconnected. It is a vital element of production as well as the original source of all material prosperity. That is why its importance has never been diminished. In every phase of development- be it in agriculture or industrial revolution, land has been synonymous with power and affluence. At the same time, it has been the source of conflict in the society. Land-related problems emerge when there is no just distribution of land among the people. Under the feudal system, a limited number of landlords occupy the vast swathes of land, with most of the people deprived of minimum land required for their shelter and subsistence. Uneven distribution of land continues to pester the governments and state. So the issue of land reform has often been raised to solve the woes of landless people.

Nepal has been facing the different types of land-related problems for decades. The unequal distribution of land always leads to social and political conflict. The legal or illegal occupation of public land poses a challenge to the government. This sort of phenomenon has risen owing to the greediness and malfeasance of individuals or organisations that resort to dubious means to transfer the public or Guthi’s lands and into their name. For this, fraudsters establish an evil nexus with the corrupt officials and politicians to ensure legal right over the plots of land belonging to the state. The non-state actors take the advantage of weak government and administrative mechanisms while illegally claiming the public property. This results in the loss of huge revenues for the government.

In response to the demand that the illegally occupied land must be brought into the ownership of the state, the present government had formed a high-level commission to identify and protect the details of all public, government and Guthi land in May last year. The committee’s investigation has vindicated the people’s inkling. It has confirmed that 470 bighas of land were captured and their registration transferred by individuals, according to the news report carried out by this daily on Saturday. The five-member committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Mohan Raman Bhattarai, had submitted its report to the government early last December. The government had owned up the report and agreed to implement its recommendations after the Cabinet endorsed it last week.

The committee deserves praise for its meticulous works. The report primarily covers 10 different locations where large areas of the public land have been converted into the private property. A total of 348 bighas of land were found illegally registered under the individual names. For example, Sardu watersheds in Dharan were found massively encroached and illegally registered in the name of an NGO. Various individuals have captured Guthi land in Nepalgunj and Makwanpur. This is indeed a serious crime and perpetrators must be brought to book. The government must not drag its heels when it comes to implementing the recommendations of the report. This is necessary to strengthen the government’s ability to enforce the rule of law, buttress its own credibility and serve the broader interest of the people.