Landless see ploy in distribution of temporary land ownership papers ahead of local electionsLocal representatives distributed 1,197 temporary land ownership documents to landless families in Shuklagandaki and Bandipur last week.
Election fever has gripped the nation with the local level polls less than a month away. Political parties, their leaders and activists have upped their election-related activities across the country. Aspiring local candidates have been lobbying to get the party's ticket to contest the elections and are in a race to lure voters.
In Tanahun, several people’s representatives who were elected in the last local elections held in 2017 are contesting for office this time too. In their last election campaign, a majority of candidates had assured land ownership certificates to the landless squatters, a traditional vote bank for major political parties. But after winning the elections, the officials ignored the promises made to their voters.
With the elections now knocking at the door, the people’s representatives have once again taken up the landless squatters' cause, going so far as to give them temporary certificates apparently to prove that they have been living on public lands for the past several decades.
Shuklagandaki Municipality and Bandipur Municipality in Tanahun recently distributed temporary documents to the landless assuring them that such a document guarantees land ownership of the settlers. But the landless squatters are not convinced this time and say the distribution of temporary land ownership certificates is just a ploy to secure votes.
“We have been waiting for a land ownership certificate for the past four decades. Every time elections approach, the people’s representatives come to us with hollow promises to resolve our land issues,” said Tikaram Sharma, who has been living on public land at Shuklagandaki-7. “This time they came to us and gave us these temporary documents which state the land plots we are living on belongs to us. But I trust neither the people’s representatives nor the document they have handed us. There is no guarantee that we will not be asked to move from here once the election is over.”
According to Sharma, political parties and their leaders have been constantly ignoring the plight of the landless but are now expressing solidarity with their cause just because it is election time. “Providing a temporary document is just a formality. It is their trick to entice voters,” said Sharma. He complained that candidates make several promises but forget them once they win the elections.
Tara Thapa of Shantitole in Shuklagandaki-7 says she still does not harbour the hopes of owning the land she has been living on even though she too was given a temporary certificate stating that the land is hers by the people’s representatives who came canvassing for the upcoming elections.
“We have been deceived time and again by party leaders and government authorities. The motive behind giving us a nissa (temporary document certifying ownership of the land) right ahead of the elections is clear. They want us to vote for them,” Thapa told the Post.
Gandaki Provincial Assembly member Aasha Koirala, Tanahun chairman of the national land commission Ram Chandra Adhikari and mayor of Shuklagandaki Municipality Kisan Gurung distributed ‘temporary land documents’ to 872 landless households last week.
While distributing the documents, they assured the landless people that their land would be surveyed soon and permanent ownership certificates given to each household. “A total of 930 families of the landless people registered applications demanding land ownership. But we issued the temporary documents only to 872 families as we could not collect necessary documents for the remaining families,” said Ram Bahadur Chhetri, the chairman of Shuklagandaki-7.
In coordination with the National Land Commission, elected people’s representatives distributed a total of 1,197 temporary documents to landless families in Shuklagandaki and Bandipur last week.
For Gir Bahadur Thapa of Shuklagandaki-7, the temporary document means nothing since the land is of little use to him if he cannot use it as collateral for a bank loan. “The financial institutions won’t give us loans without collateral and we can’t use this land as collateral. What is the use of such temporary documents then?” asked Gir Bahadur.
According to Purna Singh Thapa, the chairman of Bandipur Rural Municipality, temporary documents were given to a total of 325 landless families from six different wards. “We distributed the documents based on the applications we received from the landless people. We have issued a document that proves that they have been living on the public land for years. The next step is the land will be surveyed for the legal processes and then permanent land ownership certificates will be distributed,” said chairman Thapa. He claimed that the rural municipality issued the temporary documents with an objective to resolve all disputes related to using the public land but not for any vested interest as speculated.
As per the data with the Tanahun office of the National Land Commission, as many as 2,575 families of landless people in the district had sent applications demanding land ownership certificates. Adhikari, however, suspects that the actual number of landless people could be higher in the district. “The temporary documents were distributed to the landless people on the basis of applications registered at Shuklagandaki and Bandipur. We will continue distributing such documents in other local units as well after the local elections,” said Adhikari. According to him, the distribution of such temporary documents is the first step towards acquiring the ownership certificate.