Case goes to court

Land: Thimphu thromde, in a public notice issued to the 104 landowners in Hejo, Thimphu, affected by the planned Diplomatic Enclave informed the landowners that the thromde’s announcement on November 25 is rescinded till further notice.

In its earlier announcement, the thromde asked the affected landowners to come and collect their cash compensation for their land. The landowners had been given time until the end of November to come and fill the Private Land Acquisition (PLA) forms, which is acceptance of the cash compensation.

However, not even one of the landowners came forward to sign the PLA form.

Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that the thromde had a meeting with the National Land Commission (NLC) and a task force was formed to study the issue.

“Only after the study, within a week or two we will finalise what we are going to do,” the thrompon said.

The Diplomatic Enclave is a part of the Thimphu Structural Plan 2002 -2027 where space for 16 embassies and missions was planned after acquiring 31.7 acres of land, opposite to the Indian Embassy.

A landowner said that the area was identified for the Diplomatic Enclave in 1990s.

Eight landowners were picked as the tshogpa representing the 104 landowners.

The landowner said that they still haven’t got lagthrams (land ownership) from the NLC and their land cannot be used as mortgage to avail loans from the banks.

“We were restricted to carry out any activities on our land and we have kept our land barren for the past 16 years,” he said. “The landowners in other areas had built houses and they have been earning good money from their investment.”

He said that taking the case to the court might look like the landowners are going against the government. “But we are fighting for our right.”

The landowners approached the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in early 2014. The Prime Minister then said that he understands the landowners’ grievances and said that he will ask the government to relocate the diplomatic area if possible.

Otherwise he will ask the authorities concerned to look into the compensation rate and negotiate on the rate since the government compensation rate is low, he said. “The issue was discussed in meetings held in various authorities concerned like NLC and the works and human settlement ministry for about three years but there were no clear results.”

The landowner said that the compensation rate by the thromde is Nu 230 per square feet, which comes to about Nu 98,000 for a decimal of land, while the current market value is not less than Nu 500,000 per decimal.

Thimphu thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that the compensation rate is as per the Property Assessment Valuation Agency (PAVA) of the government.

As per the land Act, if the landowners doesn’t have any land then they will be given a plot as sa-tsab otherwise they will be compensated monetarily.

He said that according to the Land Act the government has to pay the landowners the local market rate.  “During a discussion with the land commission, we were told that there is no land in the urban areas in Thimphu.”

A lawyer has been hired to represent the affected landowners at the court.

Kuensel did not talk with the lawyer, as the matter is before court.

Dechen Tshomo