Dhangadi, January 5
After three days, Shivaram Chaudhary of Campus Road, Dhangadi, finally had the land ownership certificate in his hand. However, the paper did not come easy. He had to grease every palm in the process.
Bishnu Dhakal of Chaumala, Kailali, had reached the district revenue office about two days ago for the transfer of land ownership. According to him, his file is still ‘in the process’, apparently after he failed to cough up as much money as sought in kickback.
These two, however, are just cases in point as paying bribe to get services has been the norm at the district land revenue office in Kailali these days. Service seekers lamented they had to pay more or less to everyone that lay their hand upon the files.
“Everyone from office assistant to high officials in different departments ask for extra bucks,” said Dharmaraj Chaudhary, a local of Basauti, Kailali, adding, “While some ask extra money for carrying the files to different tables, others brazenly ask to be paid for flipping through the pages and making entry in books. There are some who don’t like to oblige, but fare the worse for it as their files are either stuck or hidden intentionally,” Chaudhary said.
There is another aspect to this plight. Besides lining the pockets of employees at the office, service seekers are also being fleeced by documentation draftpersons who charge up to 200 rupees just for a few photocopies of citizenship certificate and land ownership certificate for keeping in a file. “We know we are being fleeced, but are helpless. The LRO staff accept the file instantly if they (documentation draftpersons) take it to them; otherwise we have to wait for weeks,” lamented a service seeker.
This unscrupulous practice, however, has gained momentum recently as more and more people are reaching the office seeking to get updated land ownership certificate now. As landowners are required to make a land ownership map in line with the then land survey map and their present use of the land, it has given an excuse to the employees to fleece service seekers. Besides the government fee, a land mapping officer is said to be charging from 1,500 to 5,000 rupees per person for mapping the land.
The office has 28 staffers. While more than 112 legal draftsmen are operating from the office vicinity, there is an equally large number of agents who scour the office for prospective victims.
LRO Kailali chief Bishansingh Thapa conceded that the agents and employees were putting the squeeze on service seekers. “Sadly, even if this is happening, I can’t stop it all on my own,” he said. Legal draftsmen, however, denied that they have been fleecing service seekers.