KATHMANDU, Jan 20: Putting aside the earlier proposal to provide compensation to the landowners whose lands were acquired by the government for the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the government has decided to provide land-for-land compensation to the landowners.
A cabinet meeting held at Singha Durbar on Thursday decided to provide land-for-land compensation to as many as 24 landowners and formed an 11-member committee to identity land in Morang and Sunsari districts which can be given to the landowners as compensation, informed Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation Shankar Bhandari.
The landowners have been demanding compensation for around 40 bighas [27.09 hectares] acquired by the government in the past.
Earlier, a committee formed by the government under the leadership of the then regional director of Eastern Regional Forest Directorate Man Bahadur Khadka had proposed providing compensation of Rs 30 million for the acquired 40 bighas. But ignoring the committee's proposal, Minister Bhandari on Thursday took the proposal to provide the land-for-land compensation to the landowners and had it endorsed by the cabinet.
If we start providing land-for-land compensation, it will set a bad precedent and we cannot complete any projects in the future.
-- Chief secretary Som Lal Subedi
A cabinet source said that Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi had objected to the minister's proposal of providing land-for-land compensation saying it would set a bad precedent.
“The government has and will have to run projects in the future. If we start providing land-for-land compensation, it will set a bad precedent and we cannot complete any projects in the future,” the source quoted Chief Secretary Subedi as saying in the cabinet meeting. Subedi had also argued that the landowners whose lands have been acquired by giving compensation may start asking for land-for-land compensation in the future.
Despite Subedi's opposition, the cabinet moved forward with Minister Bhandari's proposal. According to Minister Bhandari, the 11-member committee formed by the government to resolve the issue has been assigned to identify suitable land for providing the compensation.
The minister said that the committee will also study applications lodged by other landowners claiming that their lands were also acquired by the government in the past but were yet to get any kind of compensation.
A former official of the ministry said that the proposal on providing land-for-land compensation is not practical and reasonable. “If the government sets such a wrong precedent, land mafia could take advantage of it. They can create problems in acquiring lands in future and they can influence government decisions in their favor,” said the former official.
Meanwhile, the cabinet has appointed joint-register Nahakul Subedi as the secretary of the Judicial Council and joint-register of Supreme Court Nripadhwaj Niraula as registrar of the apex court. Similarly, the cabinet meeting has promoted joint-register Rajiv Gautam to secretary of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs while joint attorney general Rajan Prasad Bhattarai has been promoted to secretary of the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappearance.
Likewise, Suresh Kumar Karki has been appointed as the executive director of Radio Nepal.