Squatters seek fundamental rights

KATHMANDU: National Squatters Public Reform Association of Nepal today urged the government to ensure the rights of squatters and demanded their representation in the new high-level Land Reform Commission to be appointed in mid-September.

Sita Budhathoki, president of NSPRAN, warned of protest if the government failed to include members of the squatters' association in the commission. She claimed that the state treated them as second grade citizens and said they were deprived of their fundamental rights.

Addressing an interaction organised to publicise the data of squatters in Kathmandu, she said they were not just demanding land but also urging the government to ensure fundamental rights for squatters. She said the government should ensure their right to education, health and employment.

"We want our representation in the high-level Land Reform Commission that is going to be formed in mid-September," said Budhathoki, adding that the commission would be useless if it failed to include representatives of the squatters.

Meanwhile, Man Bahadur Shahi, state minister for Land Reforms and Management, said the government would address the concerns of squatters. He said the present government was serious about addressing the problems facing squatters, claiming that the previous government had failed to address their problems. He added that the ministry would include a representative of their association in the high-level committee to be formed in September.

"Non-squatters are taking advantage of the government's provisions meant for squatters," said Shahi, adding that the ministry would investigate to identify real squatters. He said non-squatters were encroaching upon river banks and other open areas.

The data collected by the NSPRAN showed that there are around 8,000 squatters in the five districts of Chitwan, Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari and Illam.