Of the total 45 cases in the 2003 High Level Committee report on land grabs and excess land in Thimphu around 35 cases involving mainly high profile people were reported as solved as of 2007.
The report also looks at how careless government institutions were by not registering their own land or the widespread prevalence of excess land registration among private individuals and local communities.
Since the report was never made public by the committee The Bhutanese takes a look at the cases of land grabs and excess land that were detected by the committee in 2003 and were solved.
The report in some cases shows active collusion between judges, land officials and the influential.
The thrams (of the illegally acquired lands) registered in the name who were in receipt of the overnight boon got cancelled and most of the dealing officials were suspended from services.
The officials criticized in the report include the then director of land records, Lhakpa Duba; the then dzongda and the chairman of the land acquisition committee, Karma Dorji and head of the land record, Sonam Norbu.
Also included in a particular case is the then joint director of land registration division, Ugen Takchu and surveyor general, Sither Namgey.
There are also two specific instances where the court officials were involved.
A judge, Tshering Dorji was held liable for lapses by registering excess land of 8.59 acres for Dasho Ugyen Dorji and late Dasho Lam Penjor at Semtokha. The land record office had deleted the excess land but it was registered by judge Tshering Dorji as a court decision.
In another case, the thrams of 29 individuals occupying 170.64 acres of community tsamdro was cancelled. The committee observed that most of the beneficiaries were the court officials and two family members of the then Thimphu dzongda, Karma Dorji.
Apart from the above two cases involving the court, several other illegal land transfers and excess land registration could not have been possible without judges approving it.
The land records head, Sonam Norbu is also named in the report for registering 10 decimals in Mothithang that did not belong to him.
He was suspended from his service and was charge-sheeted for the lapses. The extra land registered in his name illegally was taken over as government land.
A man named Hori and his daughter were alleged to have obtained land by fraudulent means by getting two kashos on the same land. Hori split the kashos on the same land into two and obtained 74 decimals of land at Motithang and 1.89 acres in Semtokha.
The committee recommended that the land allotted at Semtokha can be retained but the one at Motithang was to be taken over as government land. It found that the then Dzongda Dorji Namgyel must be held answerable.
In the case of Dago Boktom, her 80-decimal tseri land in Lobesa was taken over for a water catchment project. Since tseri land like sokshing cannot be built on and is actually owned by the government only cash compensation was eligible. However, her land was replaced illegally from Semtokha. The land in 2000 was then sold to Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa. The land initially was deleted from Lyonpo Zangley’s thram but later when replacement land was given from Chhukha then Thimphu land was reinstated in Lyonpo’s name.
In Bida Dorji’s case, the Thimphu City Corporation used three acres of her land at Babesa as a dump yard. As a replacement of the land used, the city allotted 5.96 acres of land which amounted to excess replacement of 2.96 acres. The excess land was in lieu of the 50% cash compensation since the land had commercial value. The excess two acres was deleted from the thram and she was allowed to retain 96 decimals in lieu of the compensation.
Dasho Passang Wangdi was found to have registered excess land of 82 decimals which was deleted from his thram.
Prominent businesswoman, Aum Damchu Dem, was allotted land replacement in two places in Thimphu after it was found that the three-acre apple orchard in Talakha fell within the reserved forest area. However, since the replacement land was allotted irregularly in Thimphu, it was to be taken over as government land. She was instead allotted a 3 acre consolidated plot above the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway.
The committee also came across allotment of excess land to Ramjam Rinpoche who owned 10 acres of sokshing land but was allotted an excess land of 38.15 acres. The excess land was cancelled.
Yab Ugyen Dorji’s land at Punakha was affected by Punakha-Tashithang road so an area of 6.01 acres as replacement land at Thimphu was registered in his name. The committee found that the area affected by the road had not been adjusted from Yab’s thram from Punakha. The committee recommended that the replacement land must be offered from the place of Yab’s choice an equivalent 6.01 acres be adjusted from the registered land in Punakha.
Former Gup, Naku received 10 decimals from the 10-acre land that was found by the committee to be put in Chang Ugyen’s name by the tampering of documents. Further, with no documentary evidence, a tshoesa of 66 decimals was registered in his name. The registration was considered illegal and therefore, the land was taken as government land.
Other “land-grabbers” involve Chophel (0.66 acres); Tsewang Chezom (2 acres); Chedon and Tandin (12.80 acres), Sangye Dema (11 acres); Namo (2.58 acres); Sangay Zangmo (0.01 acres); Nata Gyeltshen (5 acres); Sangye Lhamo (0.63 acres); Ngawang Chedon (1 acre) and Pemo and Rinzin Gyelmo (1.99 acres).
Government agencies, institutions and community use of government land
Apart from the individual cases, there are also cases of government land occupied by government and public institutions without proper registration on 568.63 acres of government land. Though there is no illegality here, proper procedures were not followed.
Government organizations had occupied 316.84 acres in the municipal area without registration of land and another 32.26 acres in rural areas. The concerned agencies were asked to process registration of lands occupied by them.
The committee found that many lands occupied by the dratshang, lhakhangs and gooneys were without thrams. The ministry of home and cultural affairs was asked to investigate and process the lands for registration in the name of the religious institutions. Around 206 acres of land lay in Thimphu’s rural areas and 13.44 acres in the extended municipal area.
A local government committe in an earlier report had identified excess land during the new sathram compilation of Thimphu Dzongkhag. This consists of 512.44 acres involving 487 individuals. The high level committee says that the ministry of agriculture and home affairs must be responsible to monitor implementation and submit the report to the cabinet. Until 2007, around 200 cases had been completed.
The same local government committee also came across illegal houses of 151 individuals covering an area of 27.21 acres in the Thimphu rural areas. The majority of these houses were dismantled.
In the main urban area, the high level committee found 159 low-income bagos (huts)which were all removed. As of 2007, people were resettled at Changkhangchu in Yusipang; Chamgang; their native places and in the south.
The committee found that 274 individuals had occupied government land of 262.36 acres, in the extended municipal area. The Thimphu city corporation was directed to take over the land. The case is completed.
Also, 67 tshamkhangs were found to be built on government land all of which were removed.