In response to the clarion call given by the honourable chief minister of Telangana on August 23, 2017, the exercise of Statewide survey of lands and its records such as Pahani, Record of Rights (ROR) etc. was taken up.
Accordingly, Land Records Updation Project (LRUP) was envisaged for implementation in two phases by the concerned department.
The first phase has been targeted at updating of land records of rural and second phase for urban.
The first-phase work was initiated in September 2017 for purification of land records which was different from regular Revenue surveys as it was restricted to the updating of textual records only and not spatial records.
The survey was carried out vigorously for four months, engaging 1,418 teams deployed across 10,825 villages. Each team comprised 3,500 Revenue officers to complete the herculean task.
The tahsildars or Revenue Divisional Officers heading the teams were given quasi-judicial powers in verifying a claim made by a villager.
Gaps in LRUP framework
Though the exercise was very intensive, it had a limited focus to implement the ambitious farmer investment support scheme namely “Rythu Bandhu Scheme”.
It is, therefore, very important for the State government to ascertain the genuine owners for smooth implementation of the Rythu Bandhu Scheme.
The purification of records has not fully served the creation of more comprehensive land records database in Telangana because of two factors.
First one is the updating of spatial land records was excluded from the ambit the survey.
The exercise of updating of spatial data is important to improve the quality of land records and make them more accessible.
Spatial land records contain details of a property sketched map, land boundaries, plot area, connectivity with roads, land topology etc.
Periodic surveys must be carried out to update spatial land records also. The second one is the non-inclusion of agricultural tenants from the scope of the survey.
However, the State government had made it very clear that the exclusion of agricultural tenants from the survey was a deliberate move to avoid potential litigation arising out of informal work conditions of the tenant farmers.
Around 14.5 lakh agricultural tenants exist in the State and are the actual tillers of 30 per cent of agricultural land in Telangana.
They too face vagaries of nature and need income support like other farmers. Their omission in the survey makes them deprived of financial benefits under the Rythu Bandhu Scheme.
Present LRUP status
Even though the exercise was completed two years of its implementation as on September 15, 2019, it is yet to be completed in all mandals.
Recently it was revealed by the Chief Commissioner of Land Administration of Telangana that around three lakh eligible land-owning farmers are yet to be issued pattadar passbooks/ROR.
Because of the non-issue of these passbooks, the eligible farmers are unable to derive the benefits of Rythu Bandhu Scheme so far and suffering a lot.
Nearly 95 per cent of the first phase work of purification of rural land records got completed and the second phase work for urban land records is to be commenced.
It is imperative that the existing gaps have to be eliminated. Certain instances of wrongful entries, the inclusion of non-agricultural lands, non-issue of passbooks to eligible land-owning farmers etc. are to be resolved on an urgent basis by the concerned department.
The Government of India has sponsored Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) in 2014 to develop an appropriate integrated land information system across the country. Since the funding pattern is on a reimbursement basis, the State government should take full advantage of the programme.
On implementation of DILRMP in totality, the State government can extend a plethora of benefits to the citizens such as real-time land ownership records, issue of land passbooks, automatic mutation etc. Computerisation of registration, connectivity between sub-register offices and tehsils will streamline the registration process to a great extent.
Hence the need of the hour is to broad base the Land Records Updation Project and move towards adoption of all components of DILRMP under Digital India initiative.
(The author is a former assistant general manager of NABARD, Hyderabad)