It isn’t easy to make ends meet when you have a debt to repay. No one knows it better than Ram Rattan, a farm labourer at Balouli village, in Haryana’s Yamunanagar district. Ram Rattan is saddled with an interest of Rs 5,000 that he pays every month for several small loans amounting to almost Rs one lakh.
While Rattan and his three sons manage to make the payment most months, there are times when it is impossible to spare such a sum. The family is then left with no other option but to pay an interest on interest on the loan.
Such loans, often taken from arhtiyas or commission agents at steep rates of interest, are the bane of 349-odd families of Balouli, 11 km away from sub-district headquarters of Chhachhrauli.
“The arhtiyas generally lend at an interest rate of Rs 3 to Rs 10 per Rs 100. We have to repay in monthly installments,” says Ram Rattan.
He has recently been given a property card under SVAMITVA scheme but has no idea that the Centre says the scheme could spell an end to life under debt.
Launching the physical distribution of the property cards under the National Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas scheme on October 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “This will pave the way for villagers to use property as a financial asset for taking loans and other financial benefits, and end disputes among villagers over land ownership”.
He had said that the youth living in villages now can avail of bank loans against their properties to start out on their own.
The beneficiaries of the scheme included residents of 763 villages across six states, including 221 from Haryana. The cards issued under the scheme contain details of the holder’s property such as the area, plot number or UID number, and are signed by the owner and a witness (sarpanch). With these, the government hopes to provide farmers access to concrete land titles, which can be used as collateral to take loans from public sector or even private banks with interest rates cheaper than offered by loan sharks.
While the government claims to have provided property cards to 208 families of Balouli village, only 121 have received it so far, says sarpanch Gurindar Singh. “The administration has taken details of the rest as well but they are yet to get their cards,” he adds.
But Ram Rattan, who was among those presented with the card at a small ceremony at the primary government school in the village, is clueless about its worth.
“A team of 10-12 men in several cars came to our village in August. They had some equipment and a small airplane like thing with them (drone). Our sarpanch ji asked us to give Rs 300 to them. Later we were given these registries. We were not told if this will be of any use to us. Do you know something about it?,” Satpal Kumar (64) asked this correspondent.
While most have little idea of the card’s importance, at least five families are at daggers drawn with the authorities for dividing their houses while mapping their properties.
Mahinder Pal, one of them, says that he had shifted to the village almost 65 years ago when he was only a year old. “We had been displaced and were provided land and shelter here. Later, I gave some of my land for the construction of a temple and took a plot across the road.
Now they have cut off 80 per cent of it during the mapping,” he says.
He claims that at the time of the first mapping exercise, his house had been included in the map. The authorities then conducted a second check while concurring with the previous land records and chipped away land from five properties in the final maps. The families were told that they had encroached upon the land that belonged to someone else. The mapping exercise was merely righting the wrong.
Sarpanch Gurinder explains, “The first time mapping was conducted, the officials came at short notice and did not have any local officer to help them define the boundaries. The maps they took back were reconciled with the Lal Dora maps. Then a second survey was conducted and a final map was drafted. The land he claims to be his is only an encroachment done long ago.”
While the government undertakes the Svamitva scheme to build a system of record-keeping and reduce discrepancies in demarcation of properties to reduce the incidence of land disputes, the current exercise is leading to claims and counter claims on parcels of land.
The five families of Balouli village are a case in point.
DC Yamunanagar, Mukul Kumar, refused to comment on the issue. “We will have to look into the particular cases (of houses cut in half) before I comment since this has not yet been brought to my notice,” he said.
Kumar, however, is all praise for the scheme. “A villager, a mason by profession, has been given a loan for Rs 3 lakh on the basis of the SVAMITVA card. With in the Lal Dora, there were no benefits for the people, but these deeds will help them avail various benefits which are given by the government.”
On awareness about benefits the scheme aims to provide to the beneficiaries with, he said the administration is already carrying out an awareness programme that “we intend to scale up in the coming days.”
On several villagers claiming that they are yet to receive the physical documents, the DC said, “All cards that had been made, have been issued. I do not have exact figures, but I can say we have distributed almost all. Teams from my office with local BDOs had gone to each village for the distribution. We will look into the particular cases if there are any.”
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