As our prime minister and his cabinet colleagues in Kathmandu are claiming to be working on big dream projects, one after another report in newspapers and various other outlets have laid bare the glaring incidents of people of entire villages being deprived of even basic rights such as land ownership certificates. In the past few weeks Republica journalists have reported such stories from various parts of the country including from Dailekh, Rupandehi, Palpa and Myagdi districts. In Dailekh, all those staying in a settlement of 16 Dalit households at Ratimate don’t have ownership certificates of their land despite that they have been staying there for the last 47 years. At least 5,000 households of Rudrapur area of Kanchan Rural Municipality in Rupandehi district don’t have land ownership certificate. After years of struggle yielding no result, the area is now better known as a village without land ownership certificate. Rampur is fast developing into a business hub of Palpa district but a total of 856 households in Rampur (ward 5, 6, 7 and 8) lack ownership certificates of their property. In Myagdi none of locals of Gurja village have a single piece of land in their names.
Reasons of landlessness in these representative cases might be different. But there is commonality. This problem arose mainly due to lack of clear government policy to resolve such issues when they arise. In most cases, the issue hasn’t been resolved even though several commissions have been formed to settle issues of squatters, landless people and to lay ground for ‘scientific land reform programs.’ Another common thing is that all these settlements are used merely as vote banks during election time. Leaders from all parties during the elections sell the dreams of providing land ownership certificate immediately after they ‘win.’ But the winners soon forget these landless people and they do not speak on their behalf. This is dishonest and betrayal to the common people.
People in Nepal face problems in getting the official works done if they do not have vital documents like land ownership certificates. In lack of such documents, people might even be denied citizenship certificate even if they are living in particular places for generations. In some places, such settlements remain as eyesores while in other parts they become big headaches for authorities as such settlements might hinder plans of development projects, road expansion, conservation of forest and other public places. Thus it is imperative to resolve such problems once and for all. Governments often form commissions and different panels to study and make recommendations to resolve such issues. Such commissions often become the venues to appoint ‘experts’ close to one or other political parties. Either their reports fail to offer much-needed solution or are just ignored. That people in a number of villages in various parts of the country lack ownership certificates of the land under their position is the proof of how insensitively our political class is dealing with the most pressing problem of the people—especially poor and Dalit.