The proposed reforms in the revenue administration in Telangana appear to be comprehensive and path breaking. Land has been the cause of disputes, clashes and murders in villages as well as in cities. The registrar registers the land after confirming that the fee and stamp duty have been paid without taking any responsibility. Even the Charminar could be registered in someone’s name if the fees were duly paid. There are a number of cases where double and triple registrations were done and the disputes go on in the revenue courts for generations. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) has done a commendable job in going for reforms. However, making law is only one aspect and implementing it effectively and transparently is quite another.
Four Bills – The Telangana Abolition of the posts of VROs Bill, 2020, The Telangana Rights in Land and Pattadar passbook Bill, 2020, The Telangana Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and The Telangana Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been introduced by the government in the State Legislative Assembly on Wednesday. KCR has assured the VROs that they would be absorbed into the posts of the same cadre in different departments. This would entail an additional burden of Rs. 260 crore on the State’s exchequer. Ninety per cent of the VROs are from weaker sections. The Village Revenue Assistants also would lose their jobs. The discretionary powers enjoyed by tahsildars and other revenue officials would be removed. KCR promised the people that henceforth the revenue department would be functioning in a transparent manner. An era of corruption-free environment has been promised. One has to wait and watch for the promises to be truly delivered.
It might be a coincidence that Gaddam Nagesh, Additional Collector of Medak District, has been caught red-handed while accepting a huge bribe. He was taken into custody by the sleuths of Anti-Corruption Bureau. The Anti-Corruption Bureau officials also arrested Narasapur Revenue Divisional Officer B. Aruna Reddy, along with Chilpiched Tahsildar Abdul Sattar. Junior Assistant Mohd. Waseem Ahmed and a private individual were also arrested in this connection. Bribe was demanded in connection with the purchasing of 112.21 acres of land. It is a coincidence that the raid by the ACB occurred at the same time when the CM was speaking in the Assembly on the revenue reforms.
KCR said the ‘Dharani’ portal would be a guide for every inch of land in the State. The ownership details would be available in the portal. The labyrinth nakshas, pahanis, pattas, etc., would be out of the way with these reforms. The government also proposed to get a comprehensive survey done to identify all the available land in the State. The digitalised map would be developed depending on the survey results.
All the revenue courts at the level of tahsildars, RDOs and Joint Collectors would be abolished. The same officials were making decisions and presiding over the resolution of disputes. It was considered a mismatch. People will have to go to civil court for resolution of their grievances. Mandal Revenue Officers (MROs) would become Joint Registrars dealing with agricultural land registration. Sub-registrars sitting in 141 offices across the State will handle the registration of non-agricultural land. Mutation would be done at the time of registration. All the details would be posted in the portal. The IT intervention is going to speed up the matters. The TRS government has also decided to constitute 16 fast track tribunals to dispose of 16,135 cases pending at different levels in the revenue courts. The tribunals would be given a time limit to dispose of the cases.
The reforms in the revenue department had started with NTR, who abolished the posts of patwaris and patels. He had also done away with Taluks and introduced smaller administrative units called Mandals. These changes, which were ushered in without adequate preparation and alternative system in place, had resulted in utter confusion regarding land records and land ownerships. The successive governments did not find it necessary to bring about suitable changes in revenue system. Digitalisation of land records was attempted earlier when a pilot project was launched in Nizamabad District.
However, it could not be continued for various reasons, the chief of which being lack of seriousness on the part of the governments. It is quite understandable that KCR became emotional while speaking on the bills saying that he considered the opportunity to explain the contents of the Bills as a result of the good deeds he might have done in his previous birth. The revenue department was beset with 76 kinds of problems and it has been branded as anti-people and corrupt. There is no point in branding all the VROs or any other category of employees corrupt or anti-people. Even the Bill after it became a law would not be a panacea if the governments do not monitor the way it is implemented. Preparing the rules and regulations for the implementation of the Act is very crucial.
It was Indira Gandhi who thought of land reforms in independent India. The Land Ceiling Act was made in 1971. It was adopted by Andhra Pradesh on 1 January 1973. P.V. Narasimha Rao had to quit as chief minister, when he tried to implement the Land Ceiling Act sincerely. Jalagam Vengal Rao who became the chief minister after a stint of President’s rule took his own time to implement the land reforms. Landlords wielded a lot of influence with Jalagam Vengal Rao who preferred to keep the Act on the backburner. When he ultimately took up for implementation on 1 January 1975, he gave exemptions to rubber farms, industries etc. The total land acquired by the government was 6.40 lakh acres. Thousands acres of temple lands are under illegal occupation. There was a bogey, which said even the seven hills, does not belong to Balaji and only two of them are lorded over by Him. Powerful people occupied the lands allotted to the poor people. Thousands of cases are pending in courts for decades together making people lose their faith in judiciary. Though late, the reforms that are being brought about are welcome.