Telangana farmers allege discrepancy in land ownership records in Dharani portal
The introduction of Dharani portal for digitising the land records, allegedly without doing a comprehensive land survey, has played havoc with the lives of several farmers whose names were not found in the portal
Kanchukatla Ramakrishna (75) of Namapuram village of Gattuppal mandal (block) in Nalgonda district bought 1.60 acres of land from another villager in late ‘60s. Since then, he and his family had been eking out his livelihood on this small piece of land.
When the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government introduced the Rythu Bandhu scheme in May 2018, many other farmers in his village started getting ₹8,000 per acre per year towards input cost (which was later enhanced to ₹10,000 per acre in 2022) but not Ramakrishna. His name was there in the patta (title deed) as the owner of the piece of land, however, the same was not reflected in the revenue records.
In October 2020, the state government introduced Dharani portal, a land records management system where the details of all agriculture lands in the state were digitised, Ramakrishna could not find his name in the portal and the land was shown in the name of some other person, who had not even sold him the land.
“This was basically because the Dharani portal acknowledges only the original land owner and not the present cultivator. The land might have changed hands before being sold to my uncle. Despite giving representation to the authorities for change of records, the authorities could not do anything, as the details entered into the portal cannot be changed once entered,” his nephew Subhash said.
Same is the case with Lakshmi of Kollapur in Nagarkurnool district, whose father-in-law bought a piece of land about 50 years ago legally. But Dharani portal now shows the land is still in the name of the original land owner. “Now, his son is claiming ownership. The local revenue officials favoured him, as they say the sale deed done on a piece of paper, called Sada Bynama, is not valid,” she said.
The introduction of Dharani portal for digitising the land records, allegedly without doing a comprehensive land survey, has played havoc with the lives of several farmers whose names were not found in the portal.
As the government declared that only those whose names figure in the Dharani portal are entitled for financial assistance Rythu Bandhu (Friends of Farmer) scheme, many farmers have been deprived of the benefits of the scheme.
“No official figures are available as of now on how many farmers have been denied Rythu Bandhu scheme due to discrepancies in Dharani portal, but according to our field reports, lakhs of farmers, who have been cultivating their lands for decades, do not find their names in the portal,” said Kiran Kumar Vissa, convenor of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, a non-governmental organisation working on the farmers’ issues. “Land records management is a very complicated issue in Telangana. The age-old land records should have been verified at the field level thoroughly before digitising them. But it was not done properly, leading to multiple problems,” Vissa added.
He described Dharani as a “reverse land reforms” exercise. Post-Nizam era, the Communists seized thousands of acres of land from land lords and distributed the same among the landless poor.
When the land ceiling act was implemented in 1972, too, the lands were transferred in the name of the poor to pre-empt the government from taking over the same.
“Now, with the advent of Dharani portal, all the farmers who had been cultivating these lands for decades have lost their rights on the lands and the original landlords are returning to the villages to claim rights over their lands. Since the land prices have gone up substantially, they are getting their names entered into the portal as permanent owners,” Vissa said.
Same is the case with thousands assigned lands – those who were distributed among the Dalits and other weaker sections by the government. “Children of those who got the assigned lands have been cultivating the same. But after the introduction of Dharani portal, the names of the descendants do not figure in the records and they are blocked. This is causing huge problems to the farmers,” Subhash said.
At many places, there have been complaints of local BRS leaders usurping large tracts of land by manipulating land records in connivance with the local revenue officials. “The lands have become costly now. So, wherever there are litigations due to Dharani portal, the local BRS leaders are using their clout and getting the lands registered in their name,” said Chinnam Narasimhulu of Ramakkapet village of Siddipet district.
Pradesh Congress Committee president A Revanth Reddy declared that if the Congress is voted to power in the elections, it would do away with Dharani portal system and introduce a more comprehensive system called “Bhoomatha.”
“Dharani has become a money spinner for the BRS leaders. They have usurped thousands of acres of land belonging to the poor farmers. They are selling the land to private companies to make money,” Revanth Reddy alleged.
BRS president and chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, however, defended the Dharani portal. “Those who want to do away with the Dharani portal should be dumped in the Bay of Bengal. It is the only scientific system that will protect the genuine land owners and not the encroachers. The Congress wants to bring back the same old system where middlemen used to loot the poor farmers,” he alleged.
KCR’s son KT Rama Rao, however, acknowledged that there could be some systemic problems with Dharani. “If the BRS comes to power again, we shall rectify all the flaws and do justice to farmers who are deprived of their land rights,” he told reporters last week.
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