Police on Thursday arrested members of a gang which has been providing ‘land ownership certificates’ to the freed Kamaiyas of Kailali District in exchange for hefty cash.
Acting on a tip-off, police arrested Ram Lal Tharu and Prem Lal Chaudhary of Janaki Rural Municipality-8 while Mani Ram Chaudhary, an employee of the Land Revenue Office (LRO), Tikapur, who is accused of assisting them in the fraud has been absconding.
The arrestees have accused LRO employees Mani Ram Chaudhary and Khusiram Chaudhary of being the mastermind behind the crime. Khusiram who has already been arrested has pleaded that he has only taken the amount required for writing in the land ownership certificates of the Kamaiyas.
Police have claimed that they have recovered Rs 156,000 allegedly collected from the Kamaiyas from the arrestees . Mani Ram had gone to the Kamaiya settlement for distributing the certificates which is against the rule since the land owners have to go to the LRO to receive their land ownership certificates.
According to a source at the LRO, Tikapur, the chief of LRO, Tikaram Regmi too was involved in the act of extorting money from the Kamaiyas.
“The Kamaiyas should have been visiting the land revenue office for collecting their land ownership certificates but the certificates were delivered to them,” the source said, “He [Regmi] must have had a hand in this.”
However, LRO chief Regmi claimed that he is innocent. “I was informed about the act recently,” he said, “But I was not involved.” He added that if the arrested employees are found guilty, they will face legal action which could result in their suspension.
The Office of Land Reform had collected the records of the freed Kamaiyas from various places about a decade ago. On the recommendation based on the records by the Kamaiya Rehabilitation Committee, it was decided that 62 households from Janaki Rural Municipality-8 and 318 households from Lamkichuha Municipality-3 would receive land ownership certificates.
The LRO, Tikapur had asked the Kamaiyas to come with recommendation from the local unit concerned if they had to make any amendments to their claim of the land. It has been found that the gang had been extorting money from the Kamaiyas based on this direction of the LRO. They had been collecting in the range of Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,000 from the free Kamaiyas.
Free Kamaiya Sudiram Chaudhary paid Rs 3,500 on Wednesday to collect his land ownership certificate. His nephew Jit Bahadur Chaudhary had to go to the LRO to receive his certificate where he paid the same amount.
“I paid Rs 3,500 but I was handed a receipt of only Rs 100,” he said, “I found that I was not the only one who was deceived in this way.” The culprits were arrested after a friend of Jit Bahadur whom he had told about the incident tipped the police.