National Land Commission Vs Home Ministry over land dispute

Differences over interpretation of laws are not only confined to politicians in Parliament, it has now seeped into government agencies.

While the National Land Commission has asked former Gup Tashi Thinley to demolish a temporary structure and move out of what they say is a 10 decimal area encroached by him on land belonging to the local RNR, the former Gup also has a letter from the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs saying the land is to be given to him as substitute land.

What further complicates matters is that another local villager Kinley Nidup was forced by the Dzongkhag administration to demolish his oil mill that encroached on the same land. Kinley Nidup and his family is now crying foul alleging that former Gup Tashi Thinley was favored unduly due to his political links and connection with the influential.

Former Gup Tashi Thinley, however, says this is not the case and he also has a no objection letter from the Gewog and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to claim the 10 decimal as sa-tsabh for land he lost to the Punatsangchu Hydropower Project Authority (PHPA).

Earlier in a letter dated on 10 September 2010 the former home secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk issued a letter stating that the 10 decimal land should be given back to Tashi Thinley legally as substitute for the land taken over by PHPA.

However, on 28 September 2011, the NLC sent a letter to the Dzongda stating that the 10 decimal land belonged to the RNR and not former Gup Tashi Thinley. According to the letter the National Recadastral Survey Program (NRCP) surveyed the land as per the old map and registered the Thram in RNR center’s name. ‘Hence the question of considering regularization of Tashi Thinley’s illegal construction does not arise,’ states the NLC letter.

The letter also states that the Commission finds him in gross violation of the Land Act of 1979 and 2007. ‘His house construction does not qualify even under the Royal Kidu for Khimsa as the house is not for self dwelling but for commercial gains,’ states the letter.

The issue has also been filed as a corruption case with the Anti-Corruption Commission by Kinley Nidup.

Kinley Nidup’s son Ratu said, “During the 1990 cadastral map survey, the land (including 90% (20 decimal) of Kinley Nidup’s land and 100 % (10 decimal) of Tashi Thinley’s land) came under the RNR. After that as per the instruction of the Dzongkhag Administration to demolish the huts, my father demolished his oil mill but the semi-permanent structure belonging to Tashi Thinley is still standing as of date.”

A 21st March 2011 field report on the land dispute by the agriculture ministry states that the 69 decimal land belongs to the Department of Agriculture. The report quotes the Gewog Gup and Mangmi as saying that the fencing of the RNR compound was carried out by Tashi Thinley as a contractor. They say the barbed fencing, however, enveloped only 59 decimals of land excluding Tashi Thinley’s land.

Ratu alleged that this was happening as the former Gup Tashi Thinley is affiliated to a political party.

Meanwhile, as per the report, Tashi Thinley has appealed to the Dzongkhag Administration on 16 July 2010, to allow him to occupy the land as substitute for his land taken over by the PHPA. The Dzongkhag on his behalf sought advice from the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

Former Gup Tashi Thinley himself alleged that Kinley Nidup had built a three storied house on a 20 decimal Kidu land which was later extended nine feet into government land. The former Gup on his part alleged that the NLC earlier had shown undue favor to Kinley Nidup saying that the map with the illegal extension was approved by the former Director General of Survey, Sither Namgay.

He also added that in the past, there was no Thram in the name of the RNR center but that it had come only later on.

On the accusation of having carried out the contract works for the fencing of the RNR compound, he agreed that he did it. “I also wanted to demolish it but when I looked at the Thram that time, it did not appear in RNR’s name,” he said.

“I have lost a substantial amount of land to PHPA,” he added. He has also applied for Kidu for the Satshab allowed by the home ministry which NLC has asked him to vacate.

He said that the land belonged to Agriculture ministry and he had their approval to retain the land as Satshab. He said that he also has approval from the Geog and Dzongkhag Administration.

The former Gup instead alleged that Kinley Nidup had affiliation with people at the NLC. He also said that he has documentary evidence to prove that Kinley Nidup had bypassed procedures at the local level to avail the land extension of nine feet.

The Wangduephodrang Dzongda, Lhendup Wangchuk said that a letter from the Dzongkhag was sent to Tashi Thinley to demolish the structure after they received the letter from NLC. However, he said that Tashi Thinley wrote back to the Dzongkhag justifying his stand.

“We construed that the land did not belong to the agriculture ministry at that since the Thram had been pending at NLC although the Dzongkhag had proposed for the registration of the entire area under RNR,” said the Dzongda. The Thram, however, is now registered under the RNR after the NCRP survey.

The Dzongda also said that he was following orders as per the Home Ministry’s letter.

The Dzongda told Tashi Thinley that he cannot retain the land because the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was involved and secondly it was unfair that one structure was demolished while the other is still standing. “But he kept insisting on the 10 decimal,” the Dzongda said.

The land is still occupied by former Gup Tashi Thinley who has now applied for Kidu.

The issue of Satshab of nine land owners displaced by PHPA including Tashi Thinley was raised by NA MP Passang Thrinlee in the recent National Assembly session. The MP alleged that NLC had not provided the satshab to the nine landowners.

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  1. such are the problems in a data-less nation. The NLC talks with great authority, but they are yet to put indisputable markers to prove to themselves even, that they’re talking about the same land. 

    During the current cadastral survey, what has become obvious is that they have no idea where a particular plot of land is located. They have no maps. The last cadastral survey merely measured the land for acreage, put the figure in their register and they went away. The same surveyor has no way of finding the same plot again. 

    So if you want to tell the surveyor to survey your land, the other villagers have to be there to corroborate your claim that that is really your land. They have no map at all. The map is there in the minds of the villagers, and that is what they are depending on. It’s not a very bad solution, but as you can see from this story, it’s highly vulnerable to individual interpretations. Is it any wonder that land disputes keep the judges the busiest?

  2. NLC is really incompetent. Only its secretary is getting all prime lands in Thimphu registrered for himself.

  3. looks like there is political influence, if what is mentioned in the paper is right. I say that because how can Dasho Pelden Wangchuk issue a letter instructing the Dzongkhag to allow the RNR land as substituted. Only HM has the wangtsey to deal with land satshab not Pelden Wangchuk

  4. As regards the issue, there must be something more than that meets the eye but the wider issue is as rightly posted by apkado…can the land commission really authenticate it? I have serious doubts. And I feel, drawing should be in NLC and not in the minds of the local people because the boundaries in the minds of local people can alter.

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