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.
It is no brainer to figure out what likely will happen when the agricultural lands are sold. Their main reason behind people buying lands in the suburb or rural parts of the country is partly trying to get away from air and sound pollution. As a result, real-estate business has recently become the profession mostly of the least educated or illiterate, school dropouts, swindlers, and political activists. This trend has completely outnumbered the licensed brokers. This particular group of people are as the ‘de facto asymmetrical high income generating workmen.” Consequently, they are the ones who are exceptionally exempted from paying taxes.To be noted that I am not against nor envy this profession. The vocation itself is not bad or unscrupulous either as long as it does operate under the law and order of the country.
In terms of business, there should be certain laws for those who want to trade their luck in this business. Meantime, fertile lands can be preserved for agricultural purpose; hence the trend of an unruly free market of land mafias must be cracked down and halted. In reality, there are handful [real] Realtor/realtor’ other than 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 accountability to the civil law and order has also put this business into jeopardy and earn only ugly reputation as fraud and deception are most likely the results in the end. On the other hand, government is getting nothing out of this loose ‘real-estate business’ or ‘the working stratum’ business but losing tax revenue otherwise.
Time and often, national daily papers are reporting stories how the impostors take land owners into their confidence by their pseudo-modesty and eventually dupe them easily. By and large, the certificates of land ownership can be bogus. Occasionally, land buyers will be misled to put their money for the land which was never owned by the one the ownership certificate has named it. Other times, you will find the land you put their entire life savings into is not the one you were told beforehand. This shows the complete bureaucratic failures of the Land Reform State 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 our ‘Fertile Crescent.’ And nothing should be taken as granted.
What we see in this picture is in the verge of becoming a history, if the selling of lands goes in this ratio every year. 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, cultural aspects cannot be overlooked. When you lose the cultural aspects of Newāh, you bury a partial identity of Newāh. The distinctive marker of Newah or the Newahness has so much to do with the land and the traditional house. The way you build a house and its facet can say enough that you live in Newāh community.
Losing the ownership of ancestors’ 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 the land but spending them on restructuring the new infrastructures. 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 the local products should be highly prioritized in partnership with other entrepreneurs. Local people will not then go unemployed. The self-employment business can contribute 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 environment and ecosystem by stopping our places from becoming a concrete jungle.