It is a matter of great concern that the new Land Bill has provisions in it that is not only unconstitutional but also intrudes upon the Land Kidu powers of His Majesty the King.
As per the constitution only His Majesty the King has the authority to give Land Kidu under Article 2 Section 16 of the constitution.
The new land bill, which has been put up in this session of the Parliament has a clause where rehabilitation or resettlement land can be given by the cabinet. Resettlement land under the current Land Act of 2007 is only the prerogative of the Druk Gyalpo.
Also, this type of land falls under the Kidu land category as people going for resettlement for e.g in southern Bhutan are actually people who need and receive Kidu land.
Another matter of concern is that the entire composition of the National Land Commission has been changed making ministers or their appointees land commission members with the Prime Minister as the Chairman.
The Gyalpoi Zimpon who has an important role in the NLC as a representative of His Majesty the King has also been left out of the new land commission entirely. This is not advisable as thousands of destitute who are given land Kidu by His Majesty the King are processed through the office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon.
These legitimate and serious concerns are not to raise questions about the integrity of the current ministers but about the long term and far reaching implications of such moves. Leaving land to any politician or any political party which has to come and go every five years and is under strong pressure to hang on is highly risky.
There is also high risk of large scale corruption over land if politicians have so much say in the National Land Commission and also in the granting of Kidu land to individuals. This is not to say that corruption will happen today or under this government but we will in most probability have corrupt politicians and governments in the future.
Some of these corrupt politicians of the future could very well start allocating land to their party Tshogpas and supporters in prime areas. Party workers or relatives of corrupt politicians could suddenly find themselves resettled or rehabilitated in Thimphu or other prime areas on land worth millions. This is also a high chance of collusion with land resettlements being given under different names and for different reasons.
The question is not ‘if’ the above will happen but ‘when’ it will happen.
This is because going by the numerous land scams of the past like Gyelpozhing, Chang Ugyen case, High Level committee report case etc there are clear examples of how power can be abused to grab land even when laws don’t permit government agencies to give land to the influential.
However, if laws permit politicians to grant land under the guise of resettlement land then there will be a definite upsurge in land corruption, political favoritism and also political victimization.
Currently when His Majesty the King grants land Kidu what matters is how poor or destitute a citizen is and not to which political party he or she belongs to.
In the future with increasing politicization some politicians may want to know a villagers political affiliation before granting resettlement land.
There is also a high chance of large scale social destabilization under corrupt politicians in the future. This is because the government already has powers to seize any private land for government projects offering paltry compensation. There is very well a strong possibility of corrupt politicians seizing the land of people they don’t like or prime land they have an eye on and then giving it to resettle their own relatives or party supporters.
Also, it is highly inadvisable to let a group of ministers completely control the land commission as corrupt ministers in the future could abuse the enormous powers of the land commission, a commission which can change what goes into the thram of every Bhutanese citizen.