Phuentsholing Land Controversies

In the wake of recent discussions in the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council (NC) concerning the unpaid lease by owners of Trowa Theatre here in Changiji, the management of the theatre has answered that they are not to be blamed.

Trowa Theatre in Thimphu

“It is not that we did not respond to the government. In fact, the government did not respond to the letters and the options that we gave,” the management told Bhutan TODAY.

According to them several letter were exchanged with the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).

“We suggested 3 options; firstly to buy the land after negotiations; second was to retain the plot of leased land at the initial lease rate of Nu 2/sq.ft. and the third and last alternative proposed was to sell the building to the government,” the theatre’s management said. If the government buys the theatre, the cost will be not less than Nu 40 million“ along with certain percent of interest.”

According to the theater’s management, they have not received any response from the government on their proposals. “We haven’t heard anything from the government despite our proposals.”

Meanwhile, the story is similar if not the same in Phuentsholing, where people as well as Thromde Thuemes are questioning the efficiency of the implementing agencies in solving land related issues, particularly government lands occupied by Tashi Group of companies and Damchen Petroleum, through what they call “illegal means”.

“Lack of land is pointed as one of the main reasons why the low income housing projects in Phuentsholing cannot materialize. How can it materialize when most of the government lands are occupied by ‘some privileged’ lot who are not even paying lease,” residents of Phuentsholing question.

Tashi Group

Records with the Phuentsholing Municipality reveal that Tashi Group has been occupying a 10,000 sq.ft. government land near the GREF cantonment for the last 38 years without registering the land or paying lease rents.

The municipal office affirmed that the land has been “allotted” and “not registered”.

Records dates back to 1974 when the then trade and industry minister “allotted” the land for construction of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) godown for storage of Druk Gas to cater gas needs for the seven western dzongkhags of Thimphu, Paro, Chhukha, Wangdiphodrang, Punakha, Haa and Gasa.

Damchen Petroleum

Similarly, Damchen Petroleum is still occupying approximate one acre of land at Rinchending as gas station. The Municipality and Damchen are at loggerheads concerning the lease rate with the Municipality imposing commercial lease rate of Nu 42 per sq.ft./annum and Damchen refusing to budge and holding on to Nu 4 per sq.ft./annum.

The municipal office took over the land from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) in 2006 after it fell under the extended city boundary.

Despite repeated notifications being issued by the municipal office, the two companies have been coming up with lame excuses and so far, no progress have been made in coming out with a concrete solution.

“It is not fair to others who are using leased government land in the city boundary having to pay the commercial rate, while some privileged lot are making the authorities dance to their whims,” a concerned Thueme told Bhutan TODAY.

Thuemes felt that no progress is being made on the issue despite repeated deliberations during every Thromde Tshogde meetings. The issue was brought to the limelight during the second Thromde Tshogde meeting in May last year.

A Thueme also questioned the credibility of Thromde Tshogde meetings as majority of the decisions made at the meetings were never implemented or either altered without their notice.

“Raising a point during the meetings serves no purpose when it is not even implemented. Only ‘we’ are made to look like jokers in the face of the public,” a distorted Thueme told Bhutan TODAY.

A senior citizen is “apprehensive” whether the concerned authorities in the Capital are even thinking of resolving the issues. The Thromde would have reported the case to the higher authorities in the capital. “What are they doing?” he questioned.

Royal Kasho on the Land Bill of Bhutan

However, a glimmer of hope has lately been showered upon these commoners with His Majesty the King’s Royal Kasho on the Land Bill of Bhutan 2012.

“Irrespective of whether a new act is found necessary or not, it is my duty as the Druk Gyalpo to ensure that State Land Assets are preserved in the interest of Bhutanese citizens-present and future generations – so that our people’s aspiration to own land and home may be fulfilled, while their right to share in the wealth and progress of our nation is protected for all time.”

“Thus, as a matter of principle, I, Druk Gyalpo, must state that in this modern time, in a small nation where land is scarce and the value of urban land continues to rise along with the possibility of ownership of land and wealth being concentrated in the hands of few…..” the Royal Decree reads.

Thromde Thuemes expressed their gratitude to His Majesty the King’s wisdom. “With His Majesty’s blessings, we are now much confident about delving deeper into land related issues in our respective constituencies,” a Thromde Thueme said.

 

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From Bhutan Today

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This story from Sangay Tshomo

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