The Denchi case in Pemagatshel Dzongkhag brings to the fore again, serious issues of respect for rule of law and conflict of interest over land involving our elected leaders. The issue at hand is the cabinet bending national laws on to offer a higher rate of land compensation than is allowed under the 2009 Land Compensation rates.
The prime beneficiary in this case is a close relative of the Prime Minister who owns the largest amount of land at the site coming to 24 acres. The government had acquired 116 acres of land at the site which included land that belonged to a total of 26 thram holders and also the government.
This comes at a time when the government on one hand is applying the 2009 land compensation laws across the country while acquiring huge tracts of private land for hydro projects, public infrastructure and other projects and on other hand making exceptional exceptions for a few.
Prior to the 2009 Land Compensation Rules the compensation rate for land was too low at Nu 200 per decimal for rural Kamzhing rule. Keeping this is mind the government instituted a detailed study and so came out with new and fairly scientific rate.
The Property Assessment and Valuation Agency (PAVA) was formed to set and apply the rates uniformly as per the laws. The PAVA committee’s recommendation was Nu 3,952 per decimal as per the rates and rules but the cabinet in an ad-hoc decision hiked the rate to Nu 9,000.
Apart from overruling a government agency and violating compensation rules there is also a clear case of conflict of interest.
As per the government’s PAVA rates the compensation that the Prime Minister’s relative should receive is Nu 7.1 mn for her 24 acres but after the cabinets decisions the compensation shot to Nu 21 mn. This means an additional increment of Nu 14 mn in violation of government rules.
This case comes on the close heels of another case of the Trowa Theater issue, where the National Council has asked for an ACC investigation on the grounds of it being a case of policy corruption.
In the Trowa case too as pointed out by the NC undue favor was being shown to the theater owner who had not paid rent to the government worth around Nu 5 mn for close to five years. The government instead wants to sell the entire land to the theater owner. In this case too coincidentally the theater owner is also a close relation of the Prime Minister.
If the government does not follow its own laws and rules especially when it comes to the family members of the political elite then people may lose faith in the system and also in the nations laws.
It was the cabinet that approved and enacted the PAVA rates and rules which has been in application across the country. Changing it for one or two people can throw the entire system in chaos with every person involved in a land acquisition case demanding their own special rates.
The government will have to remember that we are now in a democracy with equal rights for all and the rule of law.