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“The government is ready to distribute land to 1.4 million landless people”,Chairman Gyawali

What was the reason for not forming the commission when there was a problem of COVID-19 in the country?

The current problem of landless dalits, squatters and unorganized settlers is a serious problem in Nepal. For the past 70 years, we have talked about the need to solve this problem. 12-13 commissions were formed. Although some work was done in part, we could not complete it.

The population is 28 percent of our total land. If the population is considered as 100, then 25 percent of the land is in informal land relation. Land ownership, measurement and registration have not been done but farming has been done. This is called informal land relations.

When such land remains, the nation also suffers and the subsistence farmers do not benefit. If registered, the state can get revenue. Revenue is being lost due to lack of land registration. At present, only 75 percent of the revenue comes from land. For example, in Krishnapur village municipality of Kanchanpur, 80 percent of the cultivable land is unofficial. Revenue comes from only 20 percent of the land. What they are saying is that 80 percent of the people living there should be provided with drinking water, electricity and roads. In this sense, taxpayers are being treated unfairly.

Not only the state, but also the people who enjoy it. Those who want to educate their children by taking a loan from a bank by pledging land, if they do something, they will not get it.

When the first survey took place, the land of the angry people of Pradhan Panch was lost. At that time, those whose land was measured became squatters, and those whose land was not measured became squatters. Since I am Jaggawala, since you are Ailani, a kind of bad thing has happened in the society. He who has a red card considers himself a first class citizen in the society. Those who did not get parts or ownership for various reasons became second class citizens.

Calling them squatters, the question of how to solve the problem of state discrimination and second class citizens has always been raised. Previous governments have also tried to solve these problems. For example, in 2071 BS, a squatters’ commission was formed under the chairmanship of Sarada Subedi. The case went to court against that commission. When the court asked what was the legal basis for the formation of the commission, it could not give a definite answer.

What is the difference between the commissions formed in the past to solve the land problem?

This is a commission formed under the Act. The Eighth Amendment to the Land Act was made on January 11, 2008. Article 152 (b) made provision for the formation of a commission to solve the problems of landless dalits and landless squatters. After the provision was made in the Act itself, it finally got legal form. The government had already planned to form a commission. Rules have been drafted. We have now drafted nine more procedures. No matter how many processes there are, the work is being done.

In the past, commissions were limited to districts. Information was collected in the district and applications were collected. Now we don’t call to apply, the beneficiary who is in trouble, we now go to their house. We collect data through the local level.

Where is the data collection work?

Data collection will be done after the procedure is passed. We are doing preliminary work now. We wrote to all 753 local levels of the country through the Ministry of Federal Affairs to collect primary level data. Out of that, we have received some kind of data from 250 municipalities. Some modifications may be needed.

Looking at the current data, a sample survey of landless dalits, squatters, and unorganized settlements shows that we have to work in about 1.4 million families.

Do you identify the 1.4 million families scattered across the country living in Kathmandu?

There is a five-member commission at the center. There is one member from each of the seven provinces. The state government has nominated Gopal Guragain (Dhankuta) from Province 1, Jagdev Yadav (Saptari) from Province 2, Keshav Devkota (Sindhuli) from Bagmati Province, Ek Bahadur Rana (Tanahu) from Gandaki and Sobharam Basnet (Dang) from Province No. 5. Names are yet to come from Karnali and the Far West.

Members from the provinces coordinate with the districts and municipalities of the province. We also have a structure in the district. There will be a head of the District Land Revenue Office, a head of the District Survey Office, a head member of the District Forest Office and a coordinating officer of the District Coordination Committee. There is a chairperson, an expert member and another person working in the field of land rights nominated by the Government of Nepal. There must be a woman when nominating.

Later, a coordination committee is formed under the coordination of the head of the municipality. The members of this committee will be Deputy Chief, representatives of politically recognized parties, ward chairpersons of troubled wards, as well as 3 representatives including one woman from land related associations / institutions. Chief Administrative Officer will be appointed as its member secretary.

The members are to be nominated by the head of the municipality. A similar committee is formed in the ward under the coordination of the ward chairman. We make the concerned municipalities responsible. We hold a public hearing on the list prepared by the municipality.

There are always complaints that squatters get land in the name of squatters. How does the commission work to prevent this from happening?

The list prepared by the municipality level comes to the district committee of the commission. Missed person? We also verify that there is a name that should not be received.

The beneficiary himself should declare that he is a squatter. If someone gives wrong details tomorrow, his land will be taken away and he will have to go to jail. We have even drafted such a procedure.

Where is the land to give to 1.4 million families?

Land with more than the boundaries came. In the Forest Act, river bagar is also called forest. That is wrong. The forest is where the green trees are. Apart from that, how much land is there that has saplings, people are living, farming?

You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. Therefore, for the last 10 years, the law has given us the right to pull even the place where there is no forest or tree.

After the Forest Act says forest, can it not be considered as forest?

Our Act is younger than the Forest Act. The principle of law says that the act made after it should be taken as the basis.

Didn’t the green forest go against the proverb of Nepal’s wealth?

At one time, the forest in Nepal had dropped to 29 percent. Now it is more than 44 percent. Due to the community forest, the forest has increased exponentially. We provide land to the landless while protecting the real forest area.

Can you solve the squatter problem forever?

Again, a commission will not be formed for this purpose. There is an obligation to work in this way. One thing that should not be forgotten is why do people become squatters? A road has been built on the land of some people. Road expansion has also made people squatters. If you say go to my house, you are anti-development. Natural disasters like floods, landslides, lightning, chronic diseases, road accidents also make people squatters. People have also been displaced due to hydropower, mining and other projects.

A long-term solution is not possible without finding the inner cause of becoming a squatter. We have to be sensitive to the fact that their problem is the problem of the country. People living in palaces think that squatters are nothing. This is not a subject for ridicule. He has a house in Kathmandu, he has a house in Madhes, he has a job, he doesn’t want to talk about squatters.

From the point of view of human rights and the constitution, the right of human beings to live should not be forgotten. If there are shortcomings in the process of land distribution, they should be rectified. But the squatter problem is not the only problem.

How to separate real squatters?

Yes, our biggest challenge is landless identity. People with land in Taplejung are living in huts in Kathmandu. They say I am a squatter. This is the key question.

Out of 126 Land Revenue Offices across the country, 108 have online system. After going online, it is easy to find out whose land is there or not by looking at the citizenship.

Similarly, a satellite image of Google Maps can be used to identify who has been living in the area for 10 years. Another thing is that since the structure will be up to the ward level, there will not be much problem in deciding which person is right or not.

The squatters who were evacuated by dozer in Thapathali area a few years ago have returned there. The building built to house the squatters has become a place for tying cows. Doesn’t this show that the vision of Singha Durbar to solve the squatter problem is wrong?

It is not just about doing good work. The method should be adopted well. Not only sound education but his alertness and dedication too are most required. We seem to have missed out on solving problems in the past. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai worked with good intentions, but his method was not right.

I have also talked to those who have returned to Thapathali. “We knew it, but we were chased away by a dozer,” he said. We did not discuss dialogue, interaction. We were not listened to. The decree was adopted that you must go.

Therefore, we find a solution through adequate interaction with the stakeholders. Not everyone can be managed in the same place and in the same way. For example, there is no land to be given in Kathmandu, but it is not that there is no solution. It can be solved by going to different options.

Such problems have been solved in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Bangkok, Thailand, New Delhi, India, Mumbai. We don’t just imitate the model there, but we also learn from it.

How long will it take to solve the squatter problem by giving alternatives to 1.4 million families?

We have been given 3 years. This period is not enough. We are also trying to work in a new way. The old way of measuring our land is to measure it by carrying a ribbon. If we go by this method alone, even 14 years is not enough for us.

We use technology. Image is called satellite, we use that. You have to fly a drone somewhere. No matter how fast you work, it takes time. Now we do not demand that time is not enough. We do as much as we can.

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