Fundamentally right

Several readers didn’t agree with my suggestion that the government should pay more money for the land that they are acquiring behind the Tashichhodzong.

“Dorji Drolo” favours increasing the land rates only for the original inhabitants of Hejo, but fiercely opposes increases for the others, most of who would have purchased the land at much lower prices. “Dorji Drolo” also agrued that, since the land was “… earmarked for green area some 20 years back” the compensation rates were sufficient.

I agree with “Dorji Drolo” that the original inhabitants should be paid more, much more, for their land. Many of them have already contributed most of their land to the government. And some of them could now lose whatever little they still own. 26 of the landowners are original inhabitants. They should be paid more for their land.

But what about the rest? There are 36 of them. There’s no doubt that they would have purchased their land relatively recently and at much lower rates. And there’s no doubt that some of them would profit substantially. However, there’s also no doubt that some of them, especially civil servants, would have had to service loans for many years in addition to spending their entire savings to purchase the land. So they – yes, all of them – should also be paid more for their land.

Most of us do not own land in Hejo. I certainly don’t. So why should we worry if the landowners are not compensated sufficiently? Why should we get worked up? We should, because the issue is not just about land prices. It’s much more important. It’s about our fundamental rights!

As citizens of this country, we are guaranteed certain fundamental rights. These rights are enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution. It is our collective duty and in our common interest to recognize and understand our fundamental rights. And, to fight for them.

Article 7 Section 14 of the Constitution, which sets down our fundamental right when the government acquires our property, guarantees that:

A person shall not be deprived of property by acquisition or requisition, except for public purpose and on payment of fair compensation in accordance with the provisions of the law.

To this, one commentator, “Lamakheno” asks:

BUT What is a “fair compensation?” For some, even the market rate may not be considered fair.

“…the provisions of the law” that Article 7 Section 14 of the Constitution refers to would include the Land Act, Section 151, according to which:

The valuation of the land and property shall consider the total registered area, registered land category, its current use, location in relation to accessibility to vehicular road, immovable property, local market value, and other elements such as scenic beauty, cultural and historical factors, where applicable.

If these conditions were applied faithfully, landowners in Hejo would be entitled to much more than the Nu 180.38/sft as “fair compensation” for their lands.

But the entire stretch of land that the government is acquiring was, as “Dorji Drolo” points out, “…earmarked for green area some 20 years back.” Correct. Except that the government did not acquire the land at that time. Nor did the government pass any law creating a new category of land called “green area”. And to make matters worse, the government has already compromised its construction ban on the so-called green area zone by permitting the construction of the Supreme Court in a green area.

“Lamakheno” also asks if:

… land acquired in the late 90s for constructing the sewerage tanks at babesa and the expressway construction should have been paid the same rate as the commercial price existing than in the same area?

And advises me not to:

… focus on the land behind Tashichhodzong alone but look at the national picture. Throughout the country, government has been, is and will be acquiring land for constructing schools, hospitals, roads, training centres, airports, offices, etc.

Yes, many people, throughout our country, have lost their land to the government for a wide range of purposes. The question is: did the government break any of the laws in effect when it acquired the land to build the sewerage tanks, the expressway, and the other infrastructure that “Lamakheno” talks about?

My answer: most probably not! The Land Act came into effect in 2007. And the Constitution came into effect in 2008. So unless the provision of some other law was broken, it would be difficult to argue that the compensation rates for these landowners would also have to be reviewed.

The Hejo landowners, however, have a convincing case. They have the Land Act to back them up. They have the Constitution. And they have fundamental rights.

On our part, we must, as “Sonam_t” notes, ensure that the government “protects our fundamental rights!”

 

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  1. Dorji Drolo says:

    Hon’ble OL,

    We, I personally appreciate your well researched answers for every one who made comments to this topic of discussion. My comments are purely based on logic and that any layman can think of. I do not want to corroborate my comments from the constitutional point of view, as I have very little knowledge about the constitution.
    Once again let me try to reiterate my argument. The land behind Tashichodzong was declared as green area some 20 years back when the first Town Planning document for Thimphu was prepared during late 80’s and eversince, they have not been any changes to it. Everybody, the original landowners and the ones who bought land in the area knows that. The original landowners sold the land at low prices because they know that they can not build on those lands and the buyers bought the land at low prices just taking opportunity in the event if the government changes rule in the foreable future. If the government doesn’t change rule, they have nothing to lose because the amount they paid for extremely low (one can check from the sale deed at Thimphu City Corporation office).
    What is best is to keep the land as it and allow the owners to cultivate as paddy field. There is no need to acquire and worry about the compensation. We need paddy fields and more paddy fields in the urban areas, let the owners continue with cultivation and the government should help in providing water for cultivation. The ministry of agriculture can also assist the land owners with some incentives like mechanizing the cultivation or not necessarily paddy cultivation, they can think of other crops as long as it remains green.
    The government need not think of compensation and the land owners do not have to worry of getting their land acquired by government.

  2. I agree that the land owners deserve a fair compensation. How is it fair that government takes land from those landowners and in turn break their own law by contructing supreme court on those lands. I also think that having golf course and Imptrat in the middle of Thimphu city is not a good idea. It is taking away a lot of good land.

    Those two should be located far away from the city.

  3. While there is a point in saying that government needs to compensate people for their land appropriately, we also need to understand the paying capacity of the government. Where will the government get the money to compensate handsomely? If the govt. pays to make each and every individual happy then where will the money for developmental social services such as health and education come from? With due respect to OL, I would just like to mention that it is convenient to support for not paying taxes for vehicles but for paying high compensation now because the headache falls on the government. But let us see if the views will remain same if and when his party wins the election. As suggested by Dorji Drolo, no acquisition and no payment will be the best solution. Government is formed by the people and therefore none other than us.

  4. For me, I see our Country, Bhutan, as the heaven on earth. Provided, rule of law is applicable. I mean, irrespective of who you are, the policy, laws, rules and regulations must be applied uniformly, not by who you are or what you look like.

    Whether you are from east, west, north or south, there should be uniform application of policies, laws, rules and regulations. Then, you will find our country, Bhutan, heaven on earth. Do you agree or you still have reservations?

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