January 12, 2017 12:40 AM NPT
By: Madan Thakur
A forest official showing land belonging to the community forest in Rangpur, Rautahat which is now owned by private individuals.
RAUTAHAT, Jan 12: Some 106 bigha of forest land in Rautahat district has been illegaly registered in the names of various individuals, it has been learnt. Forest land in wards number 3, 4 and 5 of Rangpur VDC, Rautahat, has come into the ownership of some private individuals who bribed forest officials, according to the district land reform office.
According to the records, the District Land Survey Office of Rautahat made field book entries and prepared the maps on May 20, 2015 regarding the ownership of these lands.
Following an order from the Department of Survey, the district survey office split up the land into as many as 23 plots (kittas) and forwarded it to the land revenue office on March 21, 2015 for registration in the names of private individuals. It has been found that the survey office has registered the lands in the names of various individuals from Ramechap, Solukhumbu, Sindhuli, Kathmandu,Okhaldhunga, Sarlahi and Sindhupalchowk districts.
According to Article 16 of the Forest Act 1993, it is illegal to register national forest land in the name of private individuals. Dirgha Narayan Koirala, chief of District Forest Office Rautahat and a former assistant officer there, had issued a report on June 24, 2007 saying that there were no fallow lands in the forest area. But 106 bigha in Rautahat has already been registered in the names of individuals.
Former ranger of the area forest office of Chocha, Ram Keval Yadav, opened the way for private individuals to register ownership of the lands after he signed the field book stating that these lands were within the old reclaimed lands. Forest office chief Koirala claims that Yadav himself admits to having placed his signature.
Chief of district survey office Bharat Singh Aeri admitted that he countersigned the ownership of the lands by individuals on the basis of demarcations carried out by the survey office. He claims that various other government bodies like the Ministry of Forests, the District Forest Office and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority(CIAA) have also provided recommendations to various individuals for ownership of the lands.
Forest Official Koirala informed that the District Forest Office is going to conduct a detailed investigation to find out how these lands ended up in the hands of the land mafia.
They are forming a probe commitee under the coordination of assistant chief Bindeshwor Ray and ranger Badri Dhungana to study the entire process of acquiring illegal ownership and are planning to revoke such ownership. The committee has already reached Rangpur to start the investigations.
According to sources, Dhiraj Dev, a former chief of the survey office, had colluded in expediting the ownership by individuals.
Controversy arose between the district forest office, district land revenue office and district survey office over the ownership of the 106 bigha. But investigations show that the land was actually part of community forests since long back. Nar Dwaj Ghalan, chief of the community forest user group, said, "I am still wondering how national forest lands have come to be owned by private individuals.“ There must be strict punishment against illegal owners and the officials helping them in these matters, he added.