Less than a week after a Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) in Telangana was burnt alive by a claimant to a disputed piece of land, over a dozen revenue officers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have claimed to have received threats from parties in other disputes.
On November 4, Abdullapurmet MRO P Vijaya Reddy, 37, was set on fire by K Suresh, an autorickshaw driver, who claimed to own land which was disputed. Suresh too, succumbed on November 7.”
The Telangana Tahsildhars Association wrote to the Additional DGP (Law and Order) on Friday, seeking security for MROs, especially women MROs, in the state.
“Citing Abdullapurmet MRO’s incident, people having land disputes are resorting to threats and blackmail. Some farmers have threatened MROs that they would write suicide notes naming them for cause of their suicide and self-immolate themselves outside the MRO offices. MROs are living in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and suspicion ever since the Abdullapurmet incident,’’ V Lachi Reddy, President of Telangana Tahsildhars Association, said.
DGP M Mahender Reddy said security would be provided wherever required based on the threat perception.
*M Rajani, MRO of Velair in Warangal, has lodged a complaint stating that a sarpanch, G Raji Reddy, had threatened that she would end up like Vijaya Reddy if she did not release the land ownership passbook in his name.
“He called up and asked if I knew what happened to the Abdullapurmet MRO. He warned me that I would meet the same fate if I did not give a clear title in his name of a disputed piece of land in the village,’’ Rajani said, adding that she was scared of going to work now.
* The Revenue Divisional Officer of Kamareddy, K Rajendra Kumar, said he had received an anonymous call warning of dire consequences if land disputes in the mandal were not resolved quickly.
“The caller taunted that I must have heard what happened to Abdullapurmet MRO and then warned that all the land disputes should be resolved in favour of farmers,’’ Kumar said. A call warning Kumar was also made to the district helpline.
*S Purshottam, MRO of Chevella, said he received a warning on his mobile phone on November 5. In September, a video had gone viral in which two farmers were seen falling at the feet of Purshottam pleading that after updating and digitisation of records, their four acres of land was shown in someone else’s name. Purshottam said the caller was not either of the farmers, but someone else.
*The MRO of Ibrahimpatnam in Ranga Reddy district, R Geetanjali, has complained to the district collector that she has been receiving calls reminding her of the fate of the Abdullapurmet MRO.
*The MRO of Maripeda, K Venkateshwarlu, has claimed to have received a similar call. Revenue Department officials said rising land prices, the Rythu Bandhu farm investment support scheme, and the regularisation of land records were the reasons for several land related disputes landing in offices of MROs.
“Land prices are rising all over the state, but mainly on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Farmers and landowners who earlier did not bother to check whether their titles were clear, or whether they had proper documents, are doing so now. If they find that they do not possess the relevant documents proving their ownership, they are approaching the MRO.
In some cases, they find that the land is actually registered in someone else’s name leading to disputes. In many instances, the dispute is within the family. People often accuse MROs of taking sides,” an MRO who asked not to be named, said.
In some instances, people have taken pictures of MROs’ homes or newly-purchased vehicles, and sent them to the officers, suggesting they were corrupt. “I got a message on Whatsapp. ‘This is our MRO’s palatial house’ with a photo of my house,’’ an MRO said.
The Telangana government gives Rs 10,000 per acre per year as farm investment support to all landowners in the state. “A landowner who does not receive the money goes to the MRO’s office, and sometimes finds a credit in somebody else’s account because the land is in that person’s name,” the official said.
Telangana took up the massive exercise of digitisation and checking of land records of about 2.56 crore acres in the state. “It has been found that about 16-17 lakh acres are entangled in disputes like multiple ownerships or wrong names, etc. In Ranga Reddy district in areas located on the outskirts of Hyderabad, land prices have risen from Rs 20 lakh per acre to over Rs 1 crore. People fiercely contest land ownership,” an MRO said.
In Pathikonda in Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh, MRO K Umamaheshwari was forced to use a rope to keep visitors five feet away from her during grievance redressal hours. “After the Abudullpurmet incident, I am very scared because there are a lot of land diputes here and people argue and quarrel and behave aggressively,’’ she said.