Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao had recently called the Revenue Department ‘corrupt’.
This has not gone down well with the officers and staff of the department.
Farmers, however complain of increasing graft in the system, partiality towards real estate mafia, and delays in obtaining ownership documents of land.
On 4 November 2019, the Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) of Abdullapurmet in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district, K Vijaya Reddy, was burned to death by a farmer in a shocking incident.
Her driver, K Gurunadham, who tried to rescue her, died the next day of burn injuries, while the suspect in the case, K Suresh, a farmer, succumbed to injuries he sustained in his murder bid on 7 November at the Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad.
The incident has sent shockwaves among government staff working in the Revenue Department. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao is now being blamed for instigating the attack, including by the Congress, through his statement demonising the staff.
A few MROs have, without identifying themselves, pointed out that the Chief Minister had called the Revenue Department ‘corrupt’ in various meetings. Chandrasekhar Rao’s allegations have turned the farmers’ ire on the department and its staff.
Following the death of Vijaya Reddy, hundreds of MROs staged a protest against the state government, saying it was negligent towards their security and was not deploying security guards for their protection.
The Revenue Department staff charge Rao with causing the current restlessness among farmers with his publicity stunt, which has earned them public ire.
The MROs are demanding a public apology from the Chief Minister for his statement against the Revenue Department and its staff.
They also went on strike demanding, among other things, security. However, with the state government promising to address their issues in 15 days, they withdrew the strike on 13 November.
Following the Abdullapurmet incidents, MROs now allege that they are receiving death threats.
The suspect Suresh’s wife, Latha, told the media that her husband had taken the extreme step as the MRO had allegedly demanded money for issuing patta (ownership document) to him.
She said her husband got frustrated over the delay in getting the patta.
In his dying declaration, Suresh had reportedly told the magistrate, who recorded his statement, that he was upset over the revenue officials deciding the case in favour of a real estate firm.
Suresh’s action is being hailed by some farmers, and in one social media platform, he was called “Bharatayeedu 2” (Indian 2 - after Kamal Hassan’s blockbuster Indian which showed an old man avenging corruption by government officials.)
Thousands of property issues are pending with the Telangana Revenue Department and those in need of legal documents are frustrated over the long delays. People are upset with the tardy progress in the cases with some files being passed around all departments.
Farmers and other citizens, who visit the revenue offices for getting documents, allege that their work does not get done unless they bribe the staff. Some even point out how Hyderabad has emerged as the “second-most corrupt” city.
On 2 September this year, a video of two farmers falling at the feet of an MRO at Chevella town in Ranga Reddy district in the state, pleading to settle their case, went viral.
On 12 November, a farmer in Lingala Ghanpur Mandal in Jangaon district of the state attempted self-immolation, vexed with the Revenue Department officials’ delay in registering a one-acre plot in his name.
According to data, the Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau has filed 207 cases of bribery out of which 50 are against Revenue Department staff, including officers.
Meanwhile, fear has gripped Revenue Department officials in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. In Chittoor district, the tahsildar of Pathikonda has used a rope to create a border beyond which visitors are not allowed.