The Telangana legislature passed the new revenue act. The government calls it revolutionary. Any attempt to reform the revenue system facilitating easier interface for the people has to be welcomed. However, the act falls short on many counts.
- The Telangana new Revenue act is touted as one stop solution for all the issues plaguing revenue system in the state. But, without undertaking comprehensive land survey, it is just not possible to clear the disputes surrounding the land. Chief Minister KCR promised to undertake survey of inch to inch land in the state. But, a similar promise was made after this government assumed office in the new state in 2014. But, without such a land survey aimed at redressing all the grievances and resolving all the land disputes, revenue reforms will be incomplete. Mere facilitation of land registration and mutation does not constitute resolving the complex land question. Therefore, the claim that this reform will end all revenue disputes is totally mistaken.
In fact, thousands of acres got alienated even in the last six years, since the formation of Telangana. Any further procrastination in this regard will only complicate the land disputes.
- As per the new act Tahsildars will register the agriculture lands. This will do away the present system of the sub-registrar registering the sale transaction and then the Tahsildar mutating the revenue records. Now, Tahsildar will register the sale transaction as well as mutate the revenue records.
3.The name of the cultivator has been removed from the Pahani. The state government has officially declared that it would not recognize the tenant cultivator, thus depriving them of any government benefits. Several welfare schemes introduced by central and state governments like PM kisan, Rythu bandu, subsidies, loans, interest subvention, calamity relief etc are appropriated by absentee landlords. The tenant cultivators have to bear the burden of higher cost of production without state support. They have to depend upon the mercy of magnanimous land owners. There are estimated 20 lakh landless cultivators in Telangana alone.
There is a need to balance between the fear of land alienation among land owners and the rights to tenant farmers. Tenant farmer rights have to be assured without endangering the land ownership. This will be in the interest of both land owners and tenant farmers. This is much more needed at a time when absentee landlordism is on the rise and non-agricultural capital is strongly penetrating into agrarian economy.
- There is a practice of land sale transaction on white paper in Telangana. Such transaction holders have approached the government for registration. Estimates suggest as many as 12.5 lakh such applications for land registration based on white paper transactions have been submitted to the government. Until now only 1.3 lakh have been settled and remaining over 11 lakh such applications are still pending with the government. The new act fails to adequately address this problem.
- Thousands of revenue disputes are pending with revenue courts under MRO, RDO, Joint Collector etc. Ten tribunals will be set up under the new act to settle these disputes. In regard to subsequent revenue disputes, people have to approach civil courts. This may increase the burden of resolution for farmers due to pendency of cases in the court and cost of litigation.
- As per the new revenue act, mutation charges will be collected even from those who have inherited the land.
- Estimates suggest that there are 15 lakh acres of government lands, Bhudan lands, endowment lands, wakf , Banjar lands, forest lands etc, in Telangana. Most of these lands are under illegal occupation of politically influential people. The new revenue act is silent on resolving this issue.
- Poor families across the state have been cultivating for years on assigned lands, gift lands, ceiling and forest lands. But, they do not possess pattas. In the name of new revenue act which recognizes registered land owners these poor families face a danger of getting evicted from the lands that sustained their livelihoods for decades.
- The State government has incorporated the Section 22-A prohibiting the sale and registration of the land notified as barren, assigned, poramboke, government land, etc. The 22-A register is prepared and shared with the registration department to prevent registration of such lands. But this register is so faulty that even private lands have been included in it and many government lands are excluded. The people have to face enormous difficulties to get their lands removed from the register. This has given scope for rampant corruption. The new act has to put in place a credible mechanism to prevent hardship to genuine land owners.
By — Prof K Nageshwar