“We had never been this happy in our life,” Pramila Raji expressed her happiness after receiving her land ownership certificate. She is one of the landowners among 12 Raji families of Ghatgaun, Surkhet who recently received land from the landowner who was holding the land for more than 45 years. They received land ownership certificate from District Land Reform and Management office on September 25, 2016.
Janaki Devi Jaisi, resident of Gutu, Surkhet transferred 35 ropanis of land that cost around Rs 2.5 million to 12 Rajis. The land was used by Rajis for many decades and actually belonged to them but was officially and legally owned by her family. When Nepal government surveyed land in 1971, naïve and unaware Rajis thought that owning land would be an added burden of tax and administrative hassles. So, they let Jaisi family to register the land in their name and Rajis remained legally landless. However, Jaisi’s family always kept saying that the land belongs to Rajis who even worked for them. Son of Janaki Devi Jaisi, Gajraj Jaisi said, “Rajis and we are like members of a single family. Our father registered land in his name when Rajis requested him to do so,” adding, “We frequently asked Rajis to transfer land in their name. But it took 45 years to finally happen what Rajis and we both wanted.”
Janaki Devi added, “Our family and Rajis were as close as fish is to water. My husband in his deathbed asked me not to lose our ethics and forget what he promised to Raji. So, I am happy to transfer land that actually belongs to them.”
Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal and Interdependent Society Surkhet (ISS) relentlessly worked on ensuring Rajis their land rights and make them land owners from landless status they had as long as they knew. ISS and Sajnal have been carrying out various income generating activities in Ghatgaun targeting Rajis. Such activities have been helping them earn income. Meanwhile, it was also realized that unless they own land, such activities alone cannot bring life changing impacts.
Sanjal through NSP III project supported by BfDW, made Rajis aware about the importance of land through a number of trainings and workshops. Advocacy activities were also carried out in the leadership of beneficiaries themselves. Rajis were unware of the cost of paying taxes of the land for 45 years, transportation and administrative costs incurred to transfer land in their names. Rajis who do not have formal education had little idea about it. When ISS, under the project, promised to provide them support for transportation and administrative expenses, they were further elated. Then, they further expedited the process and representatives of the rights holding families went to district headquarters of Surkhet. Finally, Rajis became rightful owners of land.
Rajis who were landless for many generations and making their living with their traditional profession of fishing and rowing boats have now become landowners. They aspire to expand their income generating activities in their newly owned land.