Where the Green Rice Field Have Gone?

Recently, I talked to my folks to keep myself updated about the ongoing development in Khokana. I grew up in a small community of 100 % Newāh or Newār indigenous people group in the outskirt of Kathmandu valley, Nepal. They informed me that real estate business is thriving. Locals are selling their lands like never before. It was not utterly unexpected, yet shocking that Nepalese, especially Newāh, hardly ever sell inheritance from their forefathers, unless they migrate somewhere or they had no other option to support the family. They tend to maintain their status quo accordingly.

The outcome of what likely will happen when the agricultural lands are sold is obvious. One of the reasons behind people buying lands in the suburb is partly trying to get away from city life. As a result, the number of land sales has surged in the recent years. In the meantime, the real-estate business has recently become the profession for the least educated, school dropouts, swindlers, and political activists. The trend broke the hegemony of the age-old realtors and left them to pick up the crumbs. The new crop of brokers outnumbered licensed brokers. This particular group of people has become a ‘de facto asymmetrical high income generating workmen.” They are exceptionally exempted from paying taxes, since there is no government body to hold them accountable. To be noted that I am not against nor envy this profession. The vocation itself is not bad or dishonorable so long it operates under the law of the land.

In terms of business, there should be certain laws for those who want to trade their luck in this business. The government must pass the law forbidding the sale of agricultural lands for the purpose of constructing buildings. In order to protect these land, an unruly free market of land mafias must be cracked down and halted. In reality, there are a handful [real] realtor in the business. There are many sheer brokers who give a damn to the profession but a bunch of con men. The higher number of individuals is not registered brokers. As a result, the lack of holding the broker accountable for their fraudulent dealings has also put this business into jeopardy and earned an ugly reputation. Defrauding the clients and deception are most likely the results in the end. To say the least, there is no proper mechanism in place to hold them accountable when they dupe the clients. On the other hand, the government is getting nothing out of this loose ‘real-estate business’ or ‘the working stratum’ business but losing tax revenue.

Time and often, national daily papers are reporting stories about how the impostors take landowners into their confidence by their pseudo-modesty and eventually swindle out a large sum from them. By and large, the certificates of land ownership can be bogus. Occasionally, buyers are misled to put their money on the land that was never owned by the supposed owner who name is in the ownership certificate. Other times, the buyer will themselves with the land they put their entire life savings into is not something they were promised to get beforehand. This shows the complete bureaucratic failures and corruption in the Ministry of Land Reform and Management offices. The concerned government body has to think about it no later than now and take strict action against these land mafias. Every broker should be booked, licensed, and brought into the sphere of taxation. The Land Reform bill should be passed in no time to keep away all the land mafias from eyeing the green pastures and agricultural land.

What we see in this picture is on the verge of becoming history, if selling lands continues in this ratio. Apparently, the landscape of this suburb community is gradually changing – once remarkably moderate and spacious traditional houses have dwarfed amid the erection of concrete taller houses. There is nothing ethically or socially wrong on constructing a concrete taller house. That might be a good thing or maybe a dream for someone to have it. However, it comes with a steep price. You are ripping off a part of your cultural heritage from you. There are many cities in the western world in Italy and Greece where they have embraced the modernity while also preserving their cultural identity. The distinctive marker of Newah or the Newahness has much to do with the land and the traditional house as well. The way you build a house and its facet can say enough of your heritage.

Losing the ownership of ancestral land means an inevitable disastrous social disintegration. The ripple effects of the disintegration will not be felt, maybe, for about a decade. The current trend shows that the ones selling their ancestral land are not investing their fortune into accumulating or replacing it but spending them on reconstructing the house. I cannot see them getting any viable financial benefits that will accrue from their restructuring. We are deviating from our ancestral understanding of the ownership of the land. We have forgotten the concept of the sacredness of the land. What is left with you now is a mere house. The down cold truth is that the house does not sustain but the land does. Therefore, losing the land is heading toward the direction of displacement in the near future. In the longer term, Newah cultures, social norms, values, and identity will be in cusp of losing its Newahness if not taken a necessary measure on time.

How can we prevent this from happening? First, the government should ban selling fertile lands. The local governing bodies also should take further measures to promote local agricultural businesses. Effective marketing for local products should be highly prioritized in partnership with other entrepreneurs. Local people will not then go unemployed. The self-employment can contribute to the economy of the country. Thus, we can maintain our social and cultural aspects as well as empower our economy. Last but not least, we can preserve the environment and ecosystem by stopping our places from becoming a concrete jungle.




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