Photo Courtesy: DIMSUMDOLLY
Photo Courtesy: DIMSUMDOLLY

URC land reform to benefit farmers and unemployed youth

It would also prevent hoarding of state land by public agencies

The National Land Commission (NLC), in a few months time, will be coming up with the User Rights Certificate (URC) land reform which is expected to facilitate the allotment of state lands for agricultural and economic purposes in rural areas.

Under the URC system instead of issuing a thram for state land, a URC certificate would instead be granted for specific purposes like for example, cash crops agriculture. The beneficiary can continue to use the land for the said purpose but if it is not used or misued then the URC can be withdrawn.

The NLC Secretary Pema Chewang said, “The URC is the vision of His Majesty The King with the aim of using the limited arable state land in a sustainable way for economically productive activities in rural areas.”

The secretary said that the main focus would be for unemployed youth and school drop outs living in rural areas as well as rural folk. The URC would enable them to grow food and carry out related activities and in the process earn an income for themselves.

URC has already been piloted in Lhuentse and Samdrupjongkhar from 2015 onwards where a total of 145 households received 296.59 acres as URC land for cultivation purposes.

The Agriculture minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the URC initiative  would be helpful in increasing food production and employing youth in rural areas.

The NLC secretary said apart from the main purpose of URC, the other purpose is to also issue land to government institutions and corporations as URC land instead of giving thrams like in the past.

It was found that a substantial amount of land registered under freehold (thram) in the name of government institutions are underutilized or not used at all. Some institutions who do not require their registered land are even leasing out the land. On the contrary, there are institutions who genuinely require land for social purposes but are deprived of the space.

It was found that the freehold or thram registration of state land in favour of government institutions and government-owned corporations can lead to private ownership through privatization. An example is Penden Cement Authority (PCA), where the state land was registered under the PCA when it was a 100 % state owned company, but subsequently when the shares were divested, the land became part of the shareholders equity by default.

There were various incidences, where local governments failed to monitor the situation on the ground leading to non use of state land, encroachment and other issues.

There are also instances where Kidu land, which was granted for the sole purpose to supplementing the livelihood of the beneficiaries were left fallow and thus undermined the utility of scarce land.

It was observed that the existing system of freehold registration of state land is unsustainable owing to scarcity of usable state land and systemic deficiencies in monitoring and implementing control measures stipulated in the legislation.

User Right Certificate is proposed to address the various shortcomings associated with freehold registration of state land.

The NLC Secretary said that under URC henceforth state land to government institutions, corporations and religious bodies would be granted as URC land and not as freehold registration. He said that the NLC is also exploring to see if the existing freehold land of government institutions and government corporations can be converted to URC.

URC would primarily open up unused state lands in rural areas, in a sustainable manner, for unemployed youth and local farmers to enhance rural economic productivity and income, and at the same time contribute to national objectives like food self sufficiency, curbing rural-urban migration and employing the youth.

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