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Setting land records straight

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For seven decades, there was no effort by any government to identify problems in land records, some of them even decaying, leave alone rectifying them. This lackadaisical attitude and approach in the past led to thousands of litigations, particularly in the farm sector. Within three years of coming to power after the State bifurcation, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi government took the bold and indeed mammoth initiative to cleanse, update and simplify land records in the State.

The massive three-and-a-half month drive, nearing completion now, is expected to pull out farmers and land-owners from years of misery due to improper maintenance of land records.

The main objective of the government in launching the programme was not only to purify and update exisiting land records, but also to ensure transparency in future land transactions, purchases, registrations, inheritance rights and mutation processes.

The need for a comprehensive look at land records

To understand why the State government undertook such a massive and unprecedented exercise, a throwback at history would explain the need.

The first survey, settlement and bandobast was conducted in the Nizam State between 1932 and 1934. Later in 1954, khasra Pahani was finalised in the State of Hyderabad. Khata numbers were given to farmers based on the extent of land in possession along with survey numbers. Since then, no exercise had been undertaken to update land records. As a result, maintenance of land records had become a cumbersome process besides leading to extensive land disputes.

All-in-one package

The three-and-half month massive exercise, launched on September 15, is aimed at eliminating land litigation, updating and computerisation of revenue records. Once completed, there would be clarity on ownership of land, extent of land as also present occupants.

The unprecedented campaign would cover all the 10,885 villages in the State in two phases. The first phase would be completed by the end of December, covering simple and undisputed issues such as correction of names, including surnames, extent of land, khata number, clubbing two khata numbers into one and deleting portion of land already sold.

In the second phase, the drive would cover lands under litigation with pending court cases to come up with some concrete solution. An interesting point is that in phase I of the programme, clarity has been established in more than 85 per cent of land records.

To oversee the cleansing and updation exercise, the State government has constituted a special set up with a budget of Rs 10 crore and a separate cell under the Mission Director as its head with task force and survey teams. These bodies will also be assisted by the newly-constituted Farmers Associations Coordination Committees (FACCs).

Once first phase is completed, the State government has decided to make the new updated revenue records available in public domain by January next year.

Officials at the doorstep of land-owners

During the drive, the officials made door-to-door visits in all villages with available revenue details. The land owners are handed over I-B which carries all details of respective land holdings. Once the records are checked and signed by the farmers, the process of updation and computerisation commences.

Initially land-owners were not serious about submitting details to the revenue teams and were reluctant to disclose the details. But, once they realised the importance of the drive, they came forward and cooperated with the officials.

With the help of villagers and the FACCs, revenue officials successfully completed the updation drive in over 7,000 villages recording almost 86 per cent of cleansing the records.

Each revenue team was directed to stay 10 days in each village to accept objections as well as to carry out corrections on the spot. The government also developed a software for land purification, updation and computerisation programme, which will help speed up the drive.

Government lands too get into the books

As part of the programme, the revenue teams are also examining, purifying and updating the records pertaining to government lands and other categories of lands.

The government is also keen on clearly recording the assets of Central government such as Railways, National Highways, Telecoms, Powergrid and other departments village-wise.

Besides, the drive would also record lands belonging to market yards, government schools, godowns, roads and other assets. To ensure that the drive does not hit roadblocks, Chief Secretary S P Singh has instructed head of all departments (HoDs) to provide lists of lands in the possession of various departments and submit it to the revenue department to update the details. The HoDs have already complied with the instructions.

After completion of the 100-day survey, revenue officials will convene gram sabhas in villages and announce survey numbers and farmer-wise land holdings besides placing the details on the notice boards at the gram panchayat office and government schools.

The all important Form 1-B

Form 1-B is an important component of the intensive drive, specifying details of land ownership including name of the owner, extent of land holdings and nature of land. During the drive, revenue officials distribute the forms to all land owners in the village. The certificate contains the name of the land-lord, extent in record, extent in possession, nature of land and other details.

The government has taken up a massive publicity campaign including newspaper advertisements and awareness posts on the social media like Facebook and Twitter to highlight the importance of Form 1-B. The campaign is aimed at catching the attention of land owners who are not accessible in person at the land sites during the survey.

“We released newspapers advertisements, besides sending bulk mails and posts in Facebook and Twitter requesting land owners to cooperate and visit their towns or villages to take Form I-B and ensure that their land records are clear,” Project Director for Land Purification, Updation and Computerisation Programme, Vakati Karuna, told Telangana Today.  Special control rooms have also been set up in Hyderabad and in the districts and they will function till the purification drive is completed. Control rooms will also give Information to people on whom to contact to settle their long-pending land issues.

FACCs too have a role to play

The revenue officials are taking the help of the newly-constituted Farmers Association’s Co-ordination Committees (FACCs) in verifying land details of farmers. Umapathi Reddy, convenor of FACC, Nawapet mandal, Mahabubnagar district commended the government for launching the drive which will provide permanent solutions

Identification of genuine input subsidy

The input subsidy of Rs 4,000 per acre of land per season announced by the government will be provided based on purification and updating of land records. The financial assistance is meant for purchase of fertilizers, seeds and other inputs for the crop and the amount will be directly credited into the farmers’ accounts. The land records updation exercise would be helpful in identifying genuine beneficiaries of this scheme.

Instant solutions to problems

B Jaganath Reddy, a small farmer from Veerlapally village in Nandigam mandal of Rangareddy district is all praise for Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. He was running from pillar to post for over a decade to rectify the wrong entry of his name in revenue records but found no help forthcoming all these years. He found an instant solution at his door-step to his grievance during an interface between revenue officials and farmers in his village.

Reddy’s name figured under Khata number 917 wrongly as Bolle Jaganath Reddy instead of Bola Jaganath Reddy. This had created problems for him in obtaining loan assistance from financial institutions to meet his crop investment needs. He spent huge amounts in the process of approaching officials concerned to set the records right, but to no avail. The revenue team that visited the village under the supervision of Nandigam Tashildar K Ramchander rectified the records and set his name right while the farmer prayed with folded hands.

Going the core banking way

The existing pahanis and Form 1B are being distributed to farmers and land-owners. The officials have subsequently called for objections and suggestions from them based on sale transactions. Inheritance rights, official records, documents available with farmers, correction of pahani records and IB records are being carried out.

Farmers’ signatures are taken on these records, and clarity is given regarding land ownership rights with farmers’ consent and acceptance.

The inheritance rights (fouti) are recorded. Mutations are being done based on sale transactions. Correction of alphabetical mistakes, word bugs and other errors in pahani/pass books are being carried out.

If two or more Khata accounts are recorded, the land is being recorded under one account. Legal heirs of deceased are being brought into revenue records.

Clarity would also be established on Inam lands to settle disputes. The details of agriculture lands being used for non-agriculture purposes are being collected and recorded accordingly.

Along with agriculture lands, forest lands, lakes, ponds, lands under canals, assigned lands, endowment lands, wakf lands, lands within the jurisdiction of government offices, acquired lands for various public purposes and all other land-related details are also being collected and recorded.

The details of ownership rights on lands are also being digitised and all details will be posted online. The government has decided to use advanced information technology and update land records as is done in the case of core banking. For this purpose, 1,000 IT officers will be appointed in all revenue offices across the State.

 

Hassle-free e-Pattadar passbooks for farmers

After completion of the purification of land records, each farmer will be given electronic title deed-cum-pattadar passbooks with high security features like water and tamper-proof.

 

The Revenue Department has already undertaken the massive exercise of digitising land records to facilitate online issue of pattadar passbooks. Till now, land owners were forced to approach competent revenue authorities to get pattadar passbooks. The government decided to issue e-pattadar passbooks for best utilisation of technology and to cut down on delays in getting passbooks.

The Revenue Department has decided to charge a nominal Rs 160 per e-pattadar passbook supplied online. Under the existing system, after getting the property registered in their name, land owners had to spend anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000 to get the pattadar passbooks.

Once all the land records  — starting from Record of Rights (ROR) and Pahanis  — are digitised, land owners can directly download their e-pattadar passbooks by submitting details.


Unresolved issues getting resolved now
                                          

                          —Vakati KarunaMission Director for land updation programme

How has the land purification exercise moved so far?

It’s moving at jet speed and as per schedule. So far, we have covered 7,029 villages and teams are visiting each and every village to educate the people on their landholdings besides inviting objections from them says Vakati karuna, Mission Director for land updation programme

Are the farmers cooperating in this government initiative?

Well, without their cooperation we would not have completed so many villages in just two-and-a-half months into the drive. Initially, they did not respond, but later they came once they realised the importance of the drive and are now keen on knowing the status of their holdings. Their participation has been extraordinary.

What are the problems faced by revenue teams during the drive?

The problems are many, such as the inability to trace out land owners, missing survey number, having double khata numbers, missing extent, wrong entries, mutation issues, but the officials are staying 10 days in each village and are solving those issues.

How far will this drive be useful to farmer and government?

 This is a first land purification exercise undertaken by any government after Independence. Farmers and land owners are still facing a lot of problems with land records. In several villages, records are not available. The government will get a clear picture of the total extent and which land is on whose name once the survey is completed.

 

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