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How land titling act based on NITI Aayog model set off slugfest between Jagan & TDP’s Naidu

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Jagan, political observers say, has a reason to worry as the Congress in Telangana ran a similar poll campaign last year against the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government’s Dharani.

Back then, Congress’s Telangana chief Revanth Reddy spearheaded a campaign against the Dharani land records portal, saying it was causing hardships for lakhs of farmers, other land owners, and promised to junk/replace it.


Also Read: 2 voter IDs, 2 ration cards — welcome to Kotia, cluster of disputed villages on Andhra-Odisha border


What is Andhra Pradesh Land Titling Act?

Passed by the state legislature in September 2022 and based on a model suggested by the NITI Aayog to the states, the Andhra Pradesh Land Titling Act intends to provide a conclusive, guaranteed title of property to the owner, in a shift from the present deed registration without any title verification under the Registration Act, 1908.

For this purpose, Jagan initiated a comprehensive land survey in the entire state in 2021 with the aid of drones, and rovers. After the President’s assent, the act was notified in a state gazette in October 2023.

The plan is to establish and operate a modern, secured, digital and real time land information system and an authority for title registration of immovable properties. But, the system is yet to come into force as the rules are to be framed.

The Act facilitates fast and secure transactions in property, aids creation and maintenance of real time data about the land titles so as to serve as a single source of truthful information. It also provides for a special adjudicatory authority for efficient and speedy resolution of disputes, the Jagan administration said, while bringing in the Act.

Under the YSRCP government, Andhra Pradesh is said to be the first state to enthusiastically take forward the NITI Aayog’s plan to bring in a regulation for land titling across the country.

The YSRCP government maintains that land titling will allow land market growth with reduced litigation and ensures maximum utilisation of land as a resource.

‘Jagan’s plan to grab people’s land’: TDP

Former TDP Rajya Sabha member Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar says the Act is in contravention of the laws related to transfer of property, evidence, succession and various judicial proceedings.

“It is also in violation of Article 300-A, which prohibits the state from depriving a person of his property except in accordance with established legal procedures,” the senior advocate tells ThePrint, adding that the onus of proving entitlement over plot falls on the owner.

The Act virtually abolishes all the title deeds, pass books, registrations etc while eliminating the scope of land owners approaching a civil court for resolution, he adds.

The opposition party is also objecting to the appointment of the Title Registration Officers, who, it says, can be misused by leaders of the ruling party “to regularise their land grab from the gullible.”

According to the Act, those aggrieved by the notified entry in the register of titles have to file objections with the Land Titling Appellate Officer as well as ensure their complaint is in the register of disputes. For revision of authority or appellate decision, the aggrieved can approach only the high court.

The TDP, which is in alliance with the BJP and the JSP, has in the joint manifesto promised to repeal this legislation “to protect people’s properties.”

While there have been some protests by lawyers, some civil society groups against the Act, Naidu himself has been targeting the LTA, since January — months prior to the poll code kicking in. In his recent campaigns, the TDP chief termed it as “Jagan’s devious plan to grab people’s land, usurp rights over private properties.”

Like Revanth Reddy, who faulted the KCR government for assigning Dharani maintenance to “a bankrupt private firm,” Naidu is accusing Jagan of handing lands records maintenance to US-based company, Critical River Technology.

“If the firm arbitrarily amends records of your lands, what will be your fate?” the TDP chief asked the public at Nuzividu last week. .

According to I.Y.R Krishna Rao, who was the state chief secretary from 2014 to 2016, the Act’s intentions and provisions are good, but its implementation is fraught with challenges.

“The revenue system is many times corrupt and complicated and could create a bigger avenue for exploitation. Instead, the state should strengthen civil courts presently over burdened by land litigations and empower revenue courts too for speedy resolution of disputes,” he tells ThePrint. “Besides, vested interests can pose unnecessary challenges to your entitlement over a property.”

The land titling concept was first explored about 20 years back in united Andhra Pradesh, with surveys taken up in Nizamabad district, Rao, who is associated with the BJP, says.

‘Lies being propagated’: YSRCP

If TDP’s Naidu is going all out against Jagan, the YSRCP leader is leading the response, accusing his rivals of a smear campaign and spreading misinformation about the Land Titling Act.

Addressing YSRCP poll meetings in the past few days, the CM called out “TDP’s hypocrisy of opposing the Act now while having endorsed it in the assembly session.”

“TDP MLA Payyavula Keshav described the Act as a beneficial step. I urge Naidu to review the records,” he said, adding that even pro-TDP channels highlighted its benefits for the farmers. “But they also removed the archived content from YouTube as the TDP went ahead with falsehood.”

Land spread over 17,000 revenue villages are being resurveyed with deployment of 15,000 surveyors with the aid of rovers, he said.

“While the process costs about Rs 2,000 crore, the survey has been completed in about 6,000 villages so far over the last two years. Rest of the villages, too, will be surveyed for update of all the old records,” the CM added.

“Has any farmer from these 6,000 villages lodged a complaint till now?”

Pointing out that the opposition is running a “fake narrative” through public speeches and IVRS calls to voters, the YSRCP chief said, “I don’t think these parties truly understand the Act which grants farmers and landowners permanent rights over their land.”

People hesitate to buy or sell land due to issues such as discrepancies in land dimensions, lack of proper subdivision, failure to update records, missing mutations and related disputes in revenue offices and courts, he said. “This reform saves people from running from pillar to post.”

The survey and modernisation is to address these issues, Jagan said, adding that in the event of any disputes arising after the survey, the government will provide compensation with the help of title insurance. “Efforts are underway to incorporate this provision in the Act.”

Jagan also lambasted the “lies being propagated with fake advertisements that physical documents were not provided after registrations.” So far, nine lakh registrations were done with the help of Card 2.0 new software, and the documents were also given to the owners, he said.

CID books Chandrababu Naidu, Nara Lokesh

On Sunday, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) booked Naidu and his son, TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh, for allegedly running a campaign to malign the CM’s image ahead of the polls. The case was registered on the directions of the Election Commission officials in Vijayawada, which received a complaint from YSRCP legislator Malladi Vishnuvardhan.

The Vijayawada Central MLA complained that voters, lately, were receiving IVR/automated phone calls through which a “falsity of misinformation regarding the proposed Land Titling Act was being propagated and a voice called upon voters not to vote for Jagan and instead vote for Naidu.”

Malladi also submitted some of the alleged IVRS messages to the poll panel.

Stating “the mala-fide propaganda was orchestrated to demean Jaganmohan Reddy as a land grabber,” Malladi sought directions for removal of advertisments, and strict action against Naidu, Lokesh and their electronic campaign team for perjury of the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee certification.

According to the MCC guidelines, parties are not allowed to indulge in an activity propagating false, unquantifiable, unsubstantiated, incorrect, and unverified allegations. But the IVR calls, Malladi contended, were intended to create a fear among the voters, and the opposition was trying to fraudulently influence the elections.

(Edited by Tony Rai)


Also Read: ‘Why do I have to look for jobs in Hyderabad?’ Youth anger palpable in Andhra as Jagan seeks 2nd term 


 



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