A land records website that the Telangana government launched in October 2020 is at the centre of a political slugfest between the Congress and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Congress leader Mohammed Ali Shabbir on Monday said complaints involving almost 30 lakh acres of land arose after the introduction of Dharani, the land records management website that was billed as one of the biggest e-governance initiatives of the state government. At the time, the administration led by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, said Dharani was launched to move the records online and change the way the documents are issued and maintained. All sales and purchases were also done online through the website. It also allows people to check ownership records of properties, including land registration, transfer, and sale rights. But the website has been bogged down by glitches, with hundreds of people claiming that it shows their land as being owned by someone else.
Accusing the government of “illegally grabbing farmers’ land” using the web portal, Shabbir said, “KCR government is taking away land from poor farmers in the name of Dharani. KCR is using Dharani as a tool to grab farmers’ land for his family and friends. The KCR government is snatching away prime parcels of land by placing them under Prohibited Zone. There are complaints involving nearly 30 lakh acres of land. Those pieces of land are being sold to private companies in open auctions. Members of the KCR family are indirectly selling those land to private parties.”
Claiming that the Congress would not “tolerate this injustice to farmers” and would fight to get Dharani cancelled, Shabbir went on to say, “We have launched an agitation to demand the withdrawal of the Dharani portal; waiver of crop loans, and resolution of Podu forest land,” he said.
In response, state Finance and Health Minister T Harish Rao said on Tuesday, “Some fools who do not understand Dharani are making all kinds of allegations. Earlier, for every land transaction, people had to go to the district headquarters to register the transaction but now it can be done at the mandal office and every sale and purchase of land can be done online without giving a Re 1 bribe. The transaction is done very fast and the record of new land sales or purchases and ownership passbook are sent by post to the owner. What can be more convenient?”
The minister went on to say, “There are some glitches and we are trying to sort it out but why is the Congress making a hue and cry over it? Have their governments ever tried to clean up land records? Why play politics over the land ownerships of poor people?”
Shabbir on Monday also accused the TRS government of not fulfilling its promise of waiving crop loans up to Rs 1 lakh. He said despite being nearly four years into its second term, the KCR-led government did not waive the crop loans. He demanded that sufficient funds should be allocated in the next budget for loan waiver. He also demanded that the government place the Agriculture Action Plan in the public domain and provide the necessary guidance, quality seeds, fertilizers and other facilities to the farmers. He said KCR should give an assurance to farmers that the government would procure their entire produce.
The Congress leader also demanded an immediate resolution of the Podu land issue. He alleged the government had created an unnecessary rift between tribals and Forest Department officials by creating a controversy over Podu land. Shabbir demanded that the government restore the rights of tribals over forest land to put an end to the Podu land issue. Podu refers to the practice of shifting agriculture. Encroachers clear a portion of land to raise crops one season and move to a different location the next season, thereby clearing large areas of forests.
Last month, a Congress delegation led by its state president and MP A Revanth Reddy met Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar and submitted a memorandum demanding that the state government scrap Dharani, resolve land disputes, and provide land rights as per the Forest Rights Act. The Opposition party also found fault with the state government allegedly entrusting the responsibility of managing land records to a foreign company “in the name of Dharani”.