NEPAL: Government should ensure the food security of 42 Gandharva families by providing land title to all
September 20, 2011
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERTS PROGRAMME
Hunger Alert Update: AHRC-HAU-002-2011
20 September 2011
[RE: AHRC-HAC-003-2011: NEPAL: Incomplete land distribution process causes serious food insecurity to the Gandharva Dalit community currently facing crop destruction and abuse by another community]
Nepal: Government should ensure the food security of 42 Gandharva families by providing land title to all
ISSUES: Right to adequate food; right to land
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that government officials visited the Gandharva community in June to conduct investigations into the case the AHRC reported in May (HAC-003-2011). The Gandharva community started cultivating the land destroyed by Tharus after the administration arranged land for a community forest. However, although a total of 42 households have either temporary titles to the land with registration receipt or official records in the field book of the land revenue office, only 6 households are expected to receive the permanent title in six months. In addition, they have to pay the fee (about 66 USD) for land measurement by the engineer, which is a government policy the administration says. On the other hand, the Village Development Community (VDC) secretary is reluctant to provide a recommendation letter for issuing the land title.
The AHRC has reported that the Gandharva community (Dalit community in Nepal) living in Sorahawa Village Development Community (VDC), Bardiya, has been deprived of their right to food and land due to conflict between Gandharva and Tharu (indigenous group) in the village.
In October 2010, some Tarus who are economically and socially influential tried to initiate a community forest in the place where the Gandharva have been cultivating since they settled in the village in 1993. They destroyed the paddy field and further threatened the Gandharva, who are the poorest in the village that the Gandharva should neither cultivate nor use the land.
The Gandharva did not have titles to the land for which only 5 out of 42 Gandharva families had a written certificate issued by the Landless Problem Solution Commission (Sukumbasi Samasya Samadhan Ayog). According to the community forest application submitted by the Tharus to the Forest Department in December 2010, the officials from the Forest Department came to the village to make a measurement on the land without proper enquiry.
In response to the Hunger Alert Case (HAC-003-2011) the AHRC reported, Mr. Resham Dangi, a sub-general director of the Community Forest Department, Kathmandu, visited the village for further investigation in June, and consulted with the Gandharva community. Another 4 Bigha (6.68 acre) was allotted for the community forest instead of the area where the Gandharva have been cultivating. Accordingly, the Gandharva started cultivating their land. The District Forest Officer has taken steps to provide the land for the community forest and proposed to initiate some activities for the Gandharva community to join the community forest program.
On August 4, the consultation was organized by the FIAN-Nepal, a human rights group working for Gandharva community and the Bardiya District administration officials from the District Land Revenue Office, the District Forest Office, the Land Measurement Office and the Local Development Office.
In consultation, it was found that 14 out of 42 households have temporary title to the land along with registration receipt whereas other 28 households’ land are registered in the official field book in which the Landless Problem Solution Commission of Land Revenue Office keeps the land record. These 28 households, however, do not have titles to the land and the administration does not take into account.
Mr. Bharat Prasad Adhikari, Land Revenue Officer informed that six households out of 42 are expected to receive permanent titles to the land within six months for which his office is currently taking steps. In the process to issue the title to the land, it is necessary to get a recommendation letter from the VDC secretary Mr. Prakash Bhahadu Majhi who is rather reluctant to provide it for some reason. It is alleged that the secretary himself does not belong to Gandharva community but belong to indigenous community, thus finds it difficult to work on behalf of the Gandharva community, which is a biased attitude as a public servant. After a long discussion, it was suggested that there should be a joint meeting between the secretary and the other officials – land revenue office, local development office, and the landless commission office etc.
Given the fact that total 42 households have either temporary title with the registration receipt or land records in the official field book, there should be appropriate steps taken for every household to get the titles to the land. When visiting the village and the Gandharva community in June, the Land Revenue Officer expressed his concern about the land issue and some Gandharvas visited the office asking for giving a priority to their land issue. However, apart from six households who were given assurance for their title to the land, other 36 households would not be provided it.
In addition, those six households who are expected to receive titles to the land have to pay the fee (about 5000 NPR, 66 USD) for the land measurement by the engineer, which is a government policy according to the administration. The land distribution to the poor in rural area aims to ensure their fundamental rights through the land reform, which is not for the purpose of business. Given the fact that the poor in rural area live at less than one USD per day, they cannot afford to pay the fee. It is unjust that the government imposes the fee for the land measurement upon the poor.
The administration keeps their eyes away from the official land record on their field book and further does not take into consideration a sustainable way to ensure the food security of the poor, which is access to the land and natural resources in rural area.
Right to Food Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)