The commission has been formed only to serve the vested interests of the political parties in power

The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition government formed a new Landless Squatters and Problem Resolution Commission (LSPRC), headed by Keshab Niraula, who is the former chairman of the Nepali Congress-affiliated Nepal Teachers Union and a retired primary school teacher on September 15, replacing the one constituted by the erstwhile KP Oliled government. The Oli government had formed the commission under the chairmanship of Devi Prasad Gyawali, who had lost the mayoral election in Bharatpur to CPN-Maoist Centre candidate Renu Dahal. Every time a new government is formed at the centre, a new commission is formed to resolve the squatters' problem, and hundreds and thousands of bighas of land are distributed to them in the name of the systematic resettlement programme. But the problem continues to remain unresolved as more and more people are rendered homeless or become poor due to landslides, floods and other natural disasters that force them out of their ancestral homes.

The party-less Panchayat regime had also distributed land to those who were chased away from foreign countries, such as Myanmar in the early 1960s and Meghalaya, India under the Punarbas Company in Tarai, where the population was sparse then.

Now, the government has issued the "National Land Commission Formation Order-2021" for providing land to landless Dalits and squatters and also to manage the unplanned settlement. A nine-member commission will be formed chaired by a person appointed by the government at the centre and an eight-member district committee chaired by a person appointed by the government in each of the districts to distribute land to the targeted families.

This commission has been formed as per the legal provision outlined in the Land Act-2021 B.S. It is to develop the criteria and standards for identification and verification of landless Dalits, squatters and unmanaged inhabitants. The central and district level commissions are required to distribute land to those who do not have any land in any part of the country and manage the unplanned land.

But such commissions have always failed to resolve the problem faced by the Dalits and landless families. These commissions are formed only to serve the vested interests of the political parties in power. The Rishi Raj Lumsali-led commission, formed by the Monmohan Adhikari-led government in 1995, had distributed the largest chunk of land – 21,900 bighas of land to as many as 58,340 families.

But this problem has remained unresolved due to the government's unplanned policies. The government should focus on distributing land only for housing purposes, especially to those who have been marginalised since ages, such as the Dalits, Haliyas in the far-western hilly region and the Badi community. In order to resolve it, the government needs to constitute a permanent body, free from political interference, in the three tiers of government so that the squatter problem can be resolved as per the need. At the same time, the government should develop a data base system based on which land could be distributed to those who do not hold a piece of land for housing or farming.

Tourist arrival up

Tourists arriving by air saw a doubling in the month of September this year from August, raising hopes of a tourism revival in the country. Nearly 10,000 tourists flew to Nepal last month, compared to just 548 the same period last year. But tourist flow is nothing near the almost 93,000 that the month had seen in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country and the world at large. Autumn and spring seasons used to attract large number of tourists to Nepal, when they usually go trekking and on expeditions to the Himalayas. However, the pandemic has brought the tourism industry to a standstill, shutting down hotels, restaurants and travel and trekking agencies and putting hundreds of thousands of dependents out of work.

The increase in tourist arrivals is said to be largely due to on-arrival visa for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and removal of the provision that required them to be quarantined in a hotel. More tourists might be interested in coming to Nepal if the government and entrepreneurs are able to sell attractive packages. Tourists, for example, might love to trek in the hinterlands without the usual crowds of visitors jostling for space on the narrow trails.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 5, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.