Need for serious rethink on Land Bill 2012

It is clear from a chorus of criticism by Parliamentarians, political parties, local government representatives, civil servants and private employees that the two controversial new changes in the Draft Land Bill 2012 are highly unpopular.

One is allowing the cabinet to grant ‘resettlement land’ and the other is changing the entire composition of the National Land Commission by having only ministers as members and excluding the Gyalpoi Zimpon.

Many feel it is an unconstitutional and unwise move of the government to try and replicate the Land Kidu powers of the King. The Constitution only allows the King to grant Land Kidu.  Many also fear that this along with the dramatic change in the Land Commission’s composition will politicize land issues in the country.

Many of the problems in Land Administration in Bhutan is not because of the Land Act 2007 but because clauses in it are not being properly implemented. The solution is to enhance the implementation and oversight capacity of the National Land Commission (NLC), not make the Act more complicated.

Ministers getting ‘Kidu like’ land powers and also taking over the National Land Commission are definitely not the solution but instead it will only further complicate matters.

The mandate of the Land Act is to solve everyday administrative land issues and improve it, not delve into Land Kidu issues, which is the prerogative of only His Majesty the King.

There are questions on whether a new and much more complicated Land Act is needed when most people have not even fully grasped the current Land Act of 2007.

The current Land Act 2007 has 319 clauses but the Draft Land Bill 2012 has 472 clauses. Most of the new clauses are not improvements but the transfer of Land rules into the Act further complicating the Act.

The current Land Act 2007 constantly uses the word ‘Commission Secretariat’ in relation to executive and secretarial activities of the NLC. However, the new draft land bill only say’s ‘Commission’ even in relation to secretarial activities. This will mean that NLC could be the first government agency where both the policy making powers of ministers and secretarial powers of the bureaucracy will be vested in the all powerful Commission.

Another change is that in the current Land Act 2007 the NLC is referred to as an ‘independent authority ‘ but in the draft Land Bill 2012 it has been changed to ‘competent authority’. 

In the case of Commissions or constitutional bodies like ECB, ACC, RAA great care is taken to insure there is little or no political interference and they have autonomy.

Some may argue that an elected government in a democracy has rights over land but then applying the same argument ministers should take over ACC, ECB, RAA, BCCI, and Media Houses. The March 2008 mandate given by the people was to rule the country as per the constitution and laws, not subvert it.

The NLC under its current composition is already accountable to the government as most of the members are government secretaries who are accountable to their ministers and ministries. In fact some senior and junior bureaucrats carry out even unethical actions if their ministers so command it.

The whole process of drafting the Land Bill 2012 is highly suspicious where even sitting NLC members had no idea about a Bill that has everything to do with NLC. The Draft Land Bill while introducing clauses that tampered with His Majesty’s Constitutional prerogative on Land Kidu was not even shown to His Majesty the King.

The Royal Kasho on the Land Ceiling restricting even Royal Family members land ceiling to 25 acres is a major initiative. Common sense would now dictate that the Draft Land Bill 2012 should be put on hold until the next session so that the Royal Kasho is properly incorporated and reflected upon.

Members of Parliament should also take time out to reflect if they are upholding the true aspirations and the sentiments of the Bhutanese people and following the Constitution on the Land Bill.

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  1. This paper is just being too cynical…..

    • Yeh. The paper is being synical. I think it should look at how the present land act is inconvinencing the efficient functioning of the local government and the central government.

  2. Allotment of government land should be purely His Majesty’s prerogative. MPs should better know the size of their shoes. Yes, later if certain part of kidu land falls under government project or so, then Cabinet may intervene in identifying alternative idle location to resettle affected citizens, but not allot without His Majesty’s kasho. To identify land to resettle affected citizens, the office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon may not be involved because people should have option to appeal to the Gyalpoi Zimpon if they are not happy with the new allotment. This is my personal opinion.

  3. The way things are developing right now will all lead to the concentration of power (absolute power) with the DPT government. As it is they already have the following powers: Political + Legislative + Executive + Budget control + Positions/Offices (placing own candidates in key positions) + Business licences (Tourism, Airlines, Banking, etc showing favouritism to relatives and the usual suspects) + And now they want to have control over Land distributionThere is a looming danger of Crony Capitalism. Who becomes rich, who gets what will all be based on one’s affiliation with the political leadership. If things are left as it is, a level playing field will not be possible thereafter.Favouritism – Nepotism – Cronyism – it is bad enough it exists – henceforth such practices/misdeeds will be INSTITUTIONALIZED.The big question nobody is daring to ask is – Are we moving towards a ONE PARTY DEMOCRACY? Will the 2013 Elections be FREE AND FAIR?I can’t understand what is happening to our country. Why are some people grabbing Power – haven’t they learnt anything from our Beloved KINGS?I have never been more concerned. 

  4. Sir/ madam,

    As far as I understand, the government’s basic responsibility is to protect its citizens, their properties and provide security amongst others. When the same government turns around and seizes land (not for projects of national importance or general / common utility like school) on one pretext or the other (in the 90es), should the government:
    1. compensate the land losing citizen as per the present market rate?
    2. allot equivalent acreage of land or of equivalent value to the citizen whose land was grabbed?
    3. make the citizen run from pillar to post and avoid the problem rather than solve it?
    4. sweep it under the carpet and pretend no injustice is done?
    Is there any provision in the Land Bill 2012 to protect the land owners (not the land left by or purchased by govt from outgoing people who left the country but the land of some citizens who are in Bhutan)?
    5. include provisions in the law to resolve these old cases satisfactorily?

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