End corruption in e-khata registration
Fed up with lengthy procedural delays, hapless citizens and builders were forced to pay hefty bribes for documents, notably the e-khata.
After months of playing fast and loose with citizens’ property documents like khatas, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is being whiplashed into showing some semblance of accountability.
The recent Lokayukta raid on 45 revenue offices across Bengaluru, which unearthed irregularities in the issue of khatas, exposes how revenue officials ran a ‘cash-for-khata’ racket and lined their pockets. Fed up with lengthy procedural delays, hapless citizens and builders were forced to pay hefty bribes for documents, notably the e-khata.
Ironically, although accessing an electronic khata minimises red tape, human interface and bribery, ingenious revenue department staffers still hoodwinked the system. Sakala, an initiative implemented in 2012 by the then BJP government to ensure the timely delivery of government services and enforce accountability, was also tampered with to suit their whims.
Giving these officials power over the khata led to brazen corruption. Another major scam that came to light was the illegal conversion of B-Khata register properties to A-Khata register— the former being properties without the mandatory approvals, and the latter being properties with clear papers. The officials lured citizens into paying considerable amounts to illegally change their property codes in the official software, anticipating the Akrama-Sakrama scheme’s implementation. The scheme was drawn up to regularise illegal constructions and encroachment of revenue land for a fee, but it has been mired in legal complications for over a decade and is currently in cold storage. Successive governments, though, are keen on the scheme as it could bring a revenue windfall, but civic-minded citizens have gone to court against it.
Despite this, BBMP officials have used it to their advantage and favoured 9,736 properties by giving them the A-Khata tag. Now, BBMP has decided to restore these properties to the B-Khata register and act against the assistant revenue officials involved. In such a tricky situation, it’s the citizens who lose out in terms of money, legal status and peace of mind.
With the high command’s diktat to maintain a clean image, the new Congress government has come out with guns blazing to shake up the city’s administration. As the Lok Sabha election draws near, it is bound to use this scam to tarnish the previous BJP regime. The government should ensure that officials return the bribes to the affected citizens. It must strengthen the hands of the Lokayukta and take stringent steps so that such illegalities do not have a lasting impact on the cityscape.