Where the Green Rice Field Have Gone?

Recently, I talked to some of my folks to keep myself updated about the ongoing development in Khokana, denizens of the small community comprised of 100 % Newāh or Newār indigenous people group in the outskirt of Kathmandu valley, Nepal. They were telling me that real estate business is the most thriving one at present in Nepal. Local people are selling their lands like never before. News, therefore, was shocking but not utterly unexpected. It is shocking because Nepalese and especially Newāh hardly ever sell inheritance from their forefathers, unless they migrate somewhere or they had no other option to support the family. In the meantime, it is also not unexpected, since people are prone to highest living standard and tend to maintain their status quo accordingly.

Nothing more, I think, should be explained what it will look likely happen when the cultivable lands are sold to outsiders. Their main reason behind people buying lands in the suburb is partly trying to get rid of 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. I label this particular group of people as ‘de facto asymmetrical high income generating workmen.” To be noted that I am not against nor envy this profession; and the vocation itself is not bad or unscrupulous as long as it does operate under the law and order of the country and sure enough not ripples the social structure and norms.

The reason I said this class as a “de facto asymmetrical high income generating workmen” is because these folks are ‘easy money-making’ proletarians whose earnings blow other working class’ income out of proportion. Meantime, they are the ones who are exceptionally exempted from paying taxes.

In terms of business, there should be certain civil law and order 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 can 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.

Interesting yet shocking stories spill in the daily papers time and often how the impostors take people into their confidence by their pseudo-modesty and eventually dupe their customers easily. By and large, the documents 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 document has named it. Other times, you will find the land you put their entire life savings is not the one you were told beforehand. This shows the complete failure of State in this area. 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 ratio goes exponentially high every year like past years. 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 is a good thing for anyone to have, if possible. However, cultural aspects cannot be overlooked. When you lose the cultural aspects of Newāh, you bury the whole identity of Newāh, as everything Newāh can associate with is so distinctive than any other people group. The way you build a house and its facet can say enough that you live in Newāh community.

More than that, Newāh are traders – largely engaged in business and agriculture. Losing ownership of ancestors’ land means an inevitable disastrous social disintegration. The immediate consequence is highly unlikely for next five years, but it is very probable that we will have mixed people groups after five years. Am I against diversity? By no means, as unity in diversity, I believe, is the strength of every society. Having said this, we, as a distinctive Newāh civilization, are to preserve our cultures, social norms, values, and identity avoiding ethnocentrism simultaneously.

In the course of developing multiculturalism or helping the minorities to assimilate into the dominant culture without diffusing their distinctive culture, we should seek to help them to become and develop as subcultures. Then again, the monstrous risk of high culture becoming a dominant culture, as the ownership of our land changes after selling lands to influential people groups cannot be ruled out. They otherwise turn to be countercultures or displace the dominant culture which definitely affects every aspect of our cultural norms, values, and lifestyle.

The major challenges will be: How do we preserve our heritage and legacy in such cultural clashing period? How do you deal with the situation if they fail to assimilate with the dominant culture, or the minorities turn to be countercultures? Counterculture surely leads to disintegration of our social and cultural harmony. So, welcoming diverse people in the community for serving the best interest of the society is by far a good idea, and we should be welcoming them. But it can be best served by also not selling our inheritance from our forefathers to the strangers.

We have higher probable solutions out there, if we seek to comprehend this issue seriously. First, the government should ban selling fertile lands. The local governing bodies also should take further steps to promote local agricultural business. Effective marketing for the local products should be highly prioritized in partnership with other entrepreneurs. Local people do not then have to be unemployed. The nation can be benefited as the self-employment business can advance 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 place from becoming a concrete jungle – every square of land filled by concrete houses and pavement. Even if we have to sell our lands, why not sell them to our own people?


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