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The villagers outside the High Court yesterday
The villagers outside the High Court yesterday

46 Paro residents embroiled in labour contribution dispute

The High Court (HC) yesterday made arrangements to conduct a hearing involving 45 people from Tsento Shari in Paro at the earliest so that the litigants could return to Paro soon.

This is because the forest fire that started from Lamgong on February 9 was spreading towards the village.

“We want to send the people back so that they could help contain the fire,” a court official said.

The other reason, court officials cited, was to ensure that the people do not blame the court if anything happens in the locality. “People might blame the court for calling them here.”

Representatives from 45 households in the village are in the HC after their neighbour, who was asked to pay Nu 16,500 to the community for refusing to cooperate and contribute labour in an electric fencing activity in the village by the Paro dzongkhag court, appealed to the HC.

A village elder, Chencho, 69, said the issue arose after the residents of a household in the village, despite signing an agreement to contribute labour for electric fencing refused to contribute labour.

The 4.6kms electric fencing around 1,500 acres of land was carried out in June 2015.

Chencho said that people from the 45 households contributed labour for 36 days and paid Nu 150 each for timber permit while fencing the area. “It’s only one household that refused to cooperate.”

He said the community then took the case to the gewog and dzongkhag administrations and then to the Paro court. “All resolutions state that they have to pay to the community.”

However, he alleged that the defendant is refusing to pay the money to harass the villagers. “We are also not fighting for the money but for law and order in the village.”

Another village elder, Dresang, 66, said that if they do not fight the case and make the family pay the money, it might set a precedent and others may not contribute labour to clear bushes near the fencing poles. Villagers contribute voluntary labour for a day every month.

“If the electric fencing doesn’t work, the government budget spent on procuring the wires will be wasted,” he said. “There will be human-wildlife conflict.”

Villagers claim that the defendant was a sharecropper of a section of Zhung dratshang called Tsenyip dratshang and was cultivating on nine acres of the land.

“Others who cultivate on less area as sharecroppers paid money to the community,” Dresang said. “That family refused to cooperate and is now asking us to get the money from the dratshang.”

The defendant, Deki, said that few influential people from the village dragged everyone to court although her issue was only with some four people.

She said she appealed because she did not own any land and it is not fair for her to pay money for electric fencing when it was dratshang’s land. “I had a kasho from the dratshang since my parent’s time that states that we need not provide any labour but the villagers refused to acknowledge that.”

She also claimed that some villagers have given a statement to the lower court that her family need not pay the money but to claim it from the dratshang. “But the lower court refused to acknowledge it.”

Deki said that her family left the village after the dispute. “I have lost my mother during the trial and I decided to fight the case.”

Meanwhile, the 45 people did not return to Paro after the court hearing. They stayed outside the HC gate to decide how and who could represent the community in the next hearing.

A villager, Tshering Phuntsho, said that it was difficult for the villagers.

He said no one benefitted from this case, as people had to waste many days in conducting and attending court hearings. “The whole village went to the dzongkhag court for three days and then paid Nu 700 each to the seven men who represented us.”

Yesterday, the villagers were deciding to select three men to represent the villagers and pay Nu 1,500 each to them.

Almost all villagers travelled in a taxi yesterday and some even went to the Supreme Court because they didn’t know the HC’s location.

Tashi Dema

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