Villagers say that PM’s Aunt received bulk of the compensation already paid
There is unhappiness among the residents of Denchi over delayed land compensation. Local villagers say that a few have been paid compensation but the bulk of the compensation so far has gone to the Prime Minister’s aunt Aum Dechen.
Local villagers have also been regularly visiting the Dzongkhag office demanding their payment.
Dzongkhag officials while confirming this, however, clarified that a few land holders were paid mainly in part as their land was immediately needed for the Dzong construction. Compensation has been paid to around 12 families for 15 acres of land required for the Dzong area, boulevard and Thrimkhang. Of the 15 acres paid for around 10 acres belongs to Aum Dechen. The total amount paid for the 15 acres is around Nu 20mn.
With a going rate for Nu 9,000 per decimal the actual land value would be Nu 13.5mn for 15 acres which would mean Nu 6.5mn would have been given for standing houses and structures in the area.
According to some landowners, the highest payment made was to Aum Dechen whose land falls mainly in the Dzong construction area. “Since some got it, we are also hoping to get it,” said a land owner.
“Initially we were told we would get the compensation but now it seems like it is forgotten,” said another land owner.
A total of 116 acres have been acquired by the government ever since late 2010 onwards till 2011 for the new Pemagatshel Dzong and Denchi town. Of the 116 acres around 71 acres belong to 26 thram private thram holders with the largest share of 24 acres belonging to Aum Dechen.
One of the affected land owners, Rinzin said,”I lost 2.20 acres but so far got compensation only for 40 decimals and my house had to be demolished and I am clueless about where to move now.”
Rinzin also said, “We work and make a living out of the land but if we constructed a house, we would have no place to work and if we tilled the land, where would we stay?” he said.
Another land owner, Jamtsho Wangdi, who lost 4.5 acres said, “We gave up our ancestral land for the good of everyone. But the situation now is, if we don’t move the area has already been demarcated and barred from any sort of construction and plantation. If we move, we have not been given the compensation,” he added.
He also said, “If we are given the money, we can move anywhere.”
A land owner who did not want to be quoted said that for the past one year, there have been at least five meetings and still they are not sure when the compensation would reach them.
Jamtsho Wangdi said that they had raised their concern on when they could get the compensation. “We were told that we would get the compensation but it was unknown when,” he said.
“If we get it now, we won’t regret about the rates we get as compensation,” he added saying that they had problems with the delayed compensation.
A local villager Sangay lost two plots of land (94 decimal and 39 decimal). He said, “I am hopeful that the land compensation will soon get finalized,” he said.
The Pemagatshel Dzongda, Gholing Tshering said that the Dzongkhag is in constant touch with the land owners. “Right now the land acquired is for the Thrimkhang, Dzong and the Boulevard and when the Government acquires additional land, the payment will be made,” he said adding that other lands are not immediate requirement. The Dzongda said that the acquired land is for the priority activities for town development.
A legal expert, however, said that the compensation system was not fair. He said, “The government has already acquired all 71 acres of private land and so how can the government be selective in paying compensation. They should pay it equally to everyone”.
The works of the much delayed Denchi town has started. Labor construction camps are being constructed and the foundation and pillars of the Thrimkhang has come up. The Denchi Dzong reconstruction had been delayed in February 2012 as they had to taken in additional bidders for the design for the Dzong.
Here too there was some controversy as local architect firms alleged that national laws were being broken to allow a foreign firm of Christopher Benninger to take part in the bids. Benninger’s firm, however, clarified that they had only come at the invitation of the government.
The Denchi land compensation scam was brought to light by this paper when it was found that the cabinet had violated the Land Act 2007, government rules on compensation and also the Property Assessment and Valuation Agency (PAVA)’s recommendations to give higher than normal compensation rates in Denchi.
Even after being aware that Denchi would become a Class B Dzongkhag thromde PAVA had set the compensation rates at Nu 3,952.42 per decimal as the land being acquired was Class B rural land in nature with no urban infrastructure.
The cabinet in 2010 November arbitrarily increased it to Nu 9,000 per decimal justifying it by saying that the Parliament had earlier declared Denchi a Class B Dzongkhag thromde and that as per PAVA rates a Class B thromde was eligible to get around Nu 9,000 or more.
The largest beneficiary was the Prime Ministers own Aunt Aum Dechen who owned 24 acres of the 71 acres held by a total of 26 thram owners.
However, in another similar case, land in 2011 was acquired for an urban throm in Duksum; Trashiyangtse at the rural rate of 2,900 even though under PAVA Duksum was eligible Nu 9,343 per decimal since it is listed as an urban area under PAVA.
Legal experts and PAVA officials explained that what happened in Duksum was correct as the urban rate of Nu 9,343 would come into force only once Duksum became an actual throm with all urban amenities and then land was acquired from it. They say that in Denchi the government paid urban rates for what was still rural land with no infrastructure.
Documents also show that PAVA committee while comparing land compensation rates for Nanglam and Denchi said the two are different as in the former case Nanglam had land pooling and some urban basis for urban rates but Denchi was a rural area where residents had not even agreed to land pooling.
PAVA which was aware of the Parliament’s decision still refused to pay Thromde B rates for Denchi. The PAVA team in its report instead informed the cabinet that any raise above the Nu 3,952.42 per decimal for Denchi would not be in keeping with the Land Act 2007.
PAVA task force members earlier told this paper that PAVA could not accept paying Class B thromde rates for Denchi as it was only a thromde in name but not in infrastructure and value. They said that PAVA has to pay for actual ground value using a complex formula.
According to legal experts though the Parliament declared Denchi a Thromde there was no resolution stating that the Land Act 2007 and PAVA could be overruled. The Parliament’s resolution was only to declare Denchi as a thromde and not establish the rates at which land is to be bought to establish the thromde.
The increase in the rates is not as per the Land Act which specifies very clearly that government compensation has to follow a fixed formula that takes into account the land usage, location, road connectivity etc. all decided by PAVA.