One of the most important reforms instituted by His Majesty The King was a Land Kidu exercise that not only gave land to the landless and many Bhutanese households but also resolved land issues and considerably enhanced land administration.
On 24th September 2007, His Majesty Commanded that, “Land issues must be resolved once and for all –if we do not take it upon ourselves to carry out a massive and all encompassing exercise, then like in the past we will only make small improvements on the existing system but leave the biggest problems unresolved and for future generations to suffer as we do”.
His Majesty said that His Majesty would personally be engaged in resolving land issues once and for all.
The land reform began with a Royal Command to the National Land Commission to carry out a comprehensive survey of the entire country.
The Nationwide Cadastral Resurvey was carried out with the best available technology between 2008- 2012, resulting in the most accurate and reliable land information database till date. This was the starting point for resolving all land issues.
Based on the findings of the Resurvey, His Majesty began granting Land Kidu to the people, finally resolving all their issues. Rural Land Kidu has been granted in 14 dzongkhags, and Urban Land Kidu has been granted in 18 Dzongkhags.
His Majesty The King has granted a total of 140,699 acres. His Majesty has also waived of Nu 2.199 bn for land refund money. A lot of this refund money includes poor rural farmers who cannot pay for the excess land in their thrams.
Of this the overwhelming majority of land Kidu is in rural areas comprising 131,956.85 acres with Nu 1.874 bn in cost exemption.
His Majesty has also granted 655.67 acres of land for rehabilitation schemes to resettle and help very poor people and communities.
His Majesty’s land Kidu is significant
Of the total 481,189.37 acres registered land the total Land Kidu Granted is 295,860.89 acres of which Kidu granted in the form of Land is 147,474.04 acres and Kidu granted as Excess Cost Exemptioon is Nu. 2,199 bn equivalent to 148,402.70 acres.
This means that land Kidu granted as a percentage of total registered land is 61.49%. Land registered prior to the grant of Kidu was only 185,306.03 or 38.51% of what it is today.
Of the total number 178,179 Thram holders in Bhutan the total number of Kidu beneficiary Thram holders are 154,018. This would mean that 86.44% of thram holders in Bhutan are Kidu beneficiaries.
The above Land Kidu granted statistics pertains only to 15 Dzongkhags and 18 Dzongkhag Thromdes where Kidu has been granted
The Total Arable land in Bhutan is 664,120.423 acres of which the total area already allotted is 488,769.13 acres which includes 7,579.76 acres of state land on long term lease. Therefore, balance arable land is 175,351.29 acres.
His Majesty said, ““The very success of democracy will depend on whether a Bhutanese citizen has a tangible stake in the nation’s future. There is nothing more secure and tangible than land.”
His Majesty also said, “The important feeling of attachment and belief in the future of the country, will only come about if the people have effective and secure ownership of land.”
Both of the above statements underscore the value of land not only as an economic asset but in also providing a stake to every Bhutanese citizen in Bhutan’s future and democracy.
The re-cadastral survey was made possible to a considerably strengthened and enhanced National Land Commission (NLC). While the NLC was created legally from the 2007 Land Act it for a long time suffered from manpower shortages, resource constraints, technology constraints and other issues.
It went back and forth over the years as a government department between the Home Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry with no one taking complete ownership.
His Majesty’s support in the formation of the NLC not only gave it a good and autonomous legal standing but His Majesty’s support also ensured adequate resources and help for large scale reforms in the NLC that fundamentally changed it for the better.
From the institutional point of view the formation of NLC was significant because it could get an autonomous status as a commission which would ensure its smooth functioning without interference. It also became the highest decisions making body on land issues.
The NLC was able to get the Nu 1.4 bn budget over the years to carry out the re-cadastral survey. Through the cadastral survey the NLC was able to clear a backlog of 12,000 land cases many of which stretched back years. Most of it involved inheritance issues but some involved land exchange and substitution cases.
The NLC’s creation meant that people no longer had to go through the lengthy court procedures to transfer land but they could now get it down through the NLC.
The NLC also strengthened its presence with qualified land officers and surveyors in the Dzongkhags.
The re-cadastral survey itself was a huge jump in technology bringing the accuracy of land measurement to a few centimeters for the earlier accuracy of a few meters.
This combined with a digital system of storing the data and maps ensured better land security for thram owners. Gone are the old days of Gups or land officials scheming to grab state and community lands or illegally increased land holdings by manipulating records. There is better check and balance in the NLC and a strong online system that enables people to know who is doing what.
Tenzin Namgay, the Director of Land Administration and Management said that none of the above would have been possible without support from His Majesty The King.
Tenzin also talked about other innovations like online land transactions whereby people no longer had to come to Thimphu for land transactions but the Dzongkhags could do it using the online system.
He said that the NLC has a good cadastral map and data of the entire country and this can be married with other systems like census data and etc. He said this data would also be helpful in developmental activities in the future.
The NLC apart from resolving 12,000 pending cases has also resolved 1,200 disputes in the re-cadastral survey.
The NLC will be soon hiring 5o assistant land officers and eventually 205 of them to help gewogs with land issues and record keeping.