gyelpozhing land grab
All three provisions pertaining to urban plot allotment in the circular were violated
The main defense used to justify the Gyelpozhing land allotment has been the 1991 circular of the late secretary, Dasho Dorji Tenzin, of the Ministry of Social Services now renamed Ministry of Works and Human Settlement.
However, Business Bhutan has accessed a copy of the circular and found that the circular’s instructions on urban plot allotments had all been violated when plots were allotted to influential people in Gyelpozhing in 2001-02.
The prime minister in a BBS interview on September 7, 2011, said that the basis of the plot allotment in Gyelpozhing was the circular issued by the late Dasho Dorji Tenzin, who cited a government directive from His Majesty the Fourth King.
“The allotment was strictly in keeping with the directives of the secretary, which makes very clear how and what basis in terms of criteria was set for the allocation of the land,” the prime minister said.
The covering letter of the circular acknowledges that the late secretary received a letter from His Majesty the King about the allotment of commercial plots and township development. The late Dasho Dorji Tenzin says that he is attaching a circular as per His Majesty’s command. He says the public should abide by it and all work should be done as per the circular.
Business Bhutan found that all three provisions in the circular pertaining to plot allotments were violated.
The circular says, “Preference for the allotment of commercial plots within a township should be given only to those persons who own and operate legal shops in the given township.”
However, none of the influential beneficiaries owned or operated legal shops in the township area. Far from having a shop in the area, they did not even have business licenses. This is while many local businessmen with valid business licenses could not get plots inspite of having applied for it.
The circular also says, “Should there be more than one competitor for a particular plot, the allotment of such plots to any of the individual should be decided on lottery basis.”
Talking to Business Bhutan earlier, residents of Gyelpozhing claimed that of the three phases for land allotment in Gyelpozhing town, only the first phase was allotted through a lottery and that too in a controversial manner.
The people claim that the second and third phase of allotments never happened though people with business licenses applied. They say the plots were instead allocated directly to influential people.
A former tshogpa, Tshering, who was there during the land allotment, said that during the initial first phase of land allotment, a lucky draw was done in public. Based on the lucky draw, 24 prime plots were then distributed to the people that had business licenses.
However, soon after allotting the land, the government officials took back the allotted plots. The same plots that had already been allotted were again put up for another lucky draw. To the surprise of many, in this redone lucky draw, business people and residents who had earlier received prime plots near the road saw their plots being taken away. They later found that these plots were given to influential people.
The people who had applied for and did not get plots at this stage were promised plots in the second and third phase of allotments that never happened.
A large number of local people alleged that during the second and the third phase of the land allotment, plots were given directly to influential people that the then Dzongda Jigme Tshultrim preferred.
The circular of the late secretary also says, “Construction works for commercial buildings should start within a period of one year from the time of allotment.”
However, except for the former Dzongda Karma, none of the influential people have started construction even after 10 years since they were allotted the plots. Local people who got plots were asked to start construction within six months.
During the BBS interview, the prime minister said, “The plots were allotted by a committee of 12 people, which included the Dzongda, Dzongrab, land record officer, two gups of Mongar and Saling, the BCCI and the throm representative,”.
However, a BBS news segment quoted the former Mongar Town Tshogpa and land allotment committee member, Tshewang Rinzin, saying, “We were just asked to sign on a pre-prepared list of names and plots. We were not told who will be getting the plots and on what criteria they were being given the plots.”
Lyonchhen said the circular based on a royal kasho was issued in 1991 and that the royal kasho quoted in the media (prohibiting Dzongdas from allotting urban plots) was issued in 1987.
The circular of the late secretary based on royal command does not have any provision in it which states that the Royal Kasho of 1987 has been withdrawn or over-ruled. It only clearly lays out the guidelines for plots allotments (that were all violated in Gyelpozhing) and township development guidelines like having symmetrical designs for buildings, maintaining sufficient spaces between buildings to prevent fire risks and not allowing fire prone structures in close proximity to permanent buildings.
A copy of this circular was sent to the Zhabtog Lyonpo (MoWHS Minister), all Dzongdas, all Thrompons and the BCCI. It was based on this circular that land was allotted fairly in Khuruthang in 1996 and in Mongar town in 1997-98 both before Gyelpozhing.
In Gyelpozhing rules were not followed despite the 1987 Kasho, 1991 circular and five letters sent by the former Director General of DUDES, Tshering Dorji, to the Mongar Dzongda Jigme Tshultrim saying that the allotments were illegal, violated government procedure and the 1987 royal kasho.