As protests against agricultural laws continue at Delhi’s borders, farmers from the national capital say a crucial document they need to get government subsidies, loans and compensation has not been issued to them for at least two years.
In October, Deepak Yadav (25) wanted to apply for the Centre’s 50% subsidy on a ‘happy seeder’ machine worth Rs 2.10 lakh, which would have been used to harvest rice crop and sow wheat in his farmland in southwest Delhi’s Jhuljhuli village.
Documents required were an Aadhar Card, voter ID card and land ownership papers. However, in Delhi government’s revenue records, the land where he had been farming still belongs to his grandfather Mangeram (80), who died in September last year. The ownership of the land was not changed after his death despite multiple requests, Yadav said.
“A regional agricultural officer said only the person in whose name the land is registered is authorised to apply for the subsidy. I ended up not applying,” he said. The regional agricultural officer told The Indian Express, “After the subsidy is issued, an audit team does inspection within a year. If they saw that the subsidy was issued to a person who doesn’t have ownership of the land, it will put us in jeopardy.”
Yadav is not alone. In 174 villages in Delhi, which were declared ‘urban’ by Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal over the last two years, the process of land mutation — changing the ownership title in land documents — is at a standstill.
This has resulted in property buyers not being able to take ownership of the land they have bought, and farmers and residents not being able to inherit hereditary land, which means they cannot apply for loans, subsidies and utility connections.
These 174 villages include 95 selected for the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) Land Pooling Policy, through which land parcels can be pooled together to be developed by the DDA, such as for housing and civic infrastructure.
The remaining 79 villages were declared ‘urban’ by Baijal in November 2019 for implementing the Prime Minister’s Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY), aimed at giving ownership rights to residents of unauthorised colonies.
They were declared ‘urban’ by invoking section 507 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act, 1957, and handed over to the DDA. A revenue department official explained that after section 507 is invoked, two revenue laws which govern the mutation process — the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, and the Delhi Land Revenue Act, 1954 — do not apply to these areas.
In October 2019, Ashwani Kumar (30) bought half-an-acre of land in southwest Delhi’s Ujwa village, where he intended to grow wheat, bajra and mustard. The registry was done, documents signed and the payment made in full, but on the day he was to collect the fard — the document containing land record, including the name of owner — the revenue department’s office in Najafgarh told him that the document has not been updated.
“They said that the village has been urbanised and is being transferred to the DDA and therefore the land mutation process has stopped. Because of that I have not been able to take an electricity connection or install a tubewell or do any farming work on the land. In the online records, the land still belongs to the previous owner, and because they are already farming on an adjoining land, I will have to apply for my subsidies separately,” Kumar said.
Senior officers from the Delhi revenue department and the DDA told The Indian Express that land mutation requests are not being processed in all ‘urban’ villages in Delhi, adding that there is a need for a uniform law to address the issue.
The revenue department official said, “Since our laws do not apply to these villages, and they have been handed over to the DDA, we can not process land mutation requests.” An officer from the DDA’s land management department said, “We do not process land mutation requests in any case, and in this instance the villages have been handed over to us but the land records are still with the revenue department.”
A DDA spokesperson said municipal corporations can process land mutation requests. However, officers from the assessment and collection department of South, North and East corporation said their role in mutation is only limited to property tax.
“We can process requests about e-change in the name of property for tax purposes. But the change in land records can only be done by the land owning agency — either the revenue department, the DDA or the Land and Development Office,” an East MCD official said.
This confusion has resulted in Deepak Yadav missing out on monetary compensation after some of his paddy crop was destroyed this monsoon due to overflowing water from the Najafgarh drain.
He said the girdawari process — evaluating the crop grown on land — was not initiated because the DDA asked him to contact the revenue department for the matter, whereas the revenue department had already told him that the village land has been handed over to the DDA. Yadav said there are several people in Jhuljhuli and nearby villages who have pending land mutation requests with the revenue department.
Paras Tyagi, co-founder of the Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment (CYCLE), said younger farmers who want to take a new approach to farming are the ones suffering the most. “This is a big challenge for farming families.
The Prime Minister said he wants to double farmers’ income. In Delhi, people don’t have land records,” he said.
A former revenue department officer explained that as per the Delhi Land Reforms Act, agricultural land was meant to be used only for agricultural or connected purposes. “Unauthorised colonies developed in Delhi came up on these agricultural lands, which was a violation of the Act… So stopping mutation in a way prevents agricultural land being transferred for unauthorised development. But if people are suffering, then they can go to civil courts,” the official said.
A senior revenue department officer said that to address this problem, a draft policy on change in land titling was submitted to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) around the time of the Commonwealth Games in 2010, but it has not been approved yet.
The Indian Express contacted the official MoHUA spokesperson about the draft policy on December 4 but had not received a response until December 9.