Telangana’s Dharani Portal: Revolutionary or Red-tape Nightmare?

The Dharani portal has become the latest flashpoint between the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi and the opposition Congress in Telangana. The portal, which offers land registration and mutation services, has come under opposition fire from time to time.

In fact, when senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was in Telangana as part of Bharat Jodo Yatra, he had promised to revamp the portal if the party was voted to power. At the ongoing session of the Telangana legislative assembly, Congress MLA D Sridhar Babu alleged that the portal had left thousands of farmers and landowners in the lurch. He blamed the BRS for not taking corrective measures.

Responding to his criticism, MAUD minister K Taraka Rama Rao maintained that Dharani was a revolutionary initiative, which made land registration a 20-minute affair.

“After the formation of Telangana in 2014, 30 lakh property documents were registered in six years before the launch of Dharani. In the last two years of Dharani’s launch, 24 lakh documents were registered that proves its success,” Rao said.

Dharani was launched as a one-step solution for land-related issues in 2020. Earlier, people had to go to the sub-registrar’s offices, which are located in 141 locations, for land registration. With Dharani, registration is now at the citizen’s doorstep and can be done in 574 mandal headquarters.

Earlier, after registration, people had to run from pillar to post for mutation of their land in revenue records. Now, mutation is done instantaneously and e-pattadar passbooks are sent within seconds by SMS while physical pattadar passbooks with 18 security features are delivered by post within a week.

After Dharani’s launch, opposition parties have repeatedly pointed out that the portal was being used as a land-grabbing tool. They have alleged that the system was plagued with inaccuracies and farmers were at the receiving end.

Recently, BJP Huzurabad MLA Eatela Rajender asked workers to collect applications from farmers who are facing problems due to discrepancies in Dharani portal. YSRTP chief YS Sharmila, too, raised her voice against the portal saying a large number of district farmers were facing issues with it. Over 22,000 acres had been rejected for claims, she alleged.

“Land record digitisation is a welcome move, but it has been conceptualised in the wrong manner by the BRS government. Instead of keeping the rights to land with the citizens, the BRS has ensured that power lies in the hands of a few. Unless they bring in a mechanism to prevent the manipulation of land records by a handful of powerful people, there is no use of such a portal,” Congress member Kota Neelima told News18.

She added: “Dharani also denies land rights to tenant farmers. They are not recognised by the Telangana government, but they are the ones toiling over the land. They are the real cultivators. This government only recognises those who have the money to buy land. Third, there is no robust grievance redress in place. The process to get inaccuracies fixed is expensive and extensive.”

According to data accessed by RTI activist Robin Zaccheus, as on August 8, 2022, 7,485 grievances related to land matters have been received through the portal in Nizamabad district. A total of 1,938 grievances related to land acquired by the government were received during the same period in the district.

Zaccheus, who is a social activist, revealed some glaring loopholes in the portal. “People who are not tech-savvy often approach me regarding the Dharani portal. What I found is that the data in the portal is often inaccurate. In the data I accessed about Nizamabad district, you can see there are 946 requests for passbook data correction. It means that the size of land and other details are reflected wrongly in the portal,” he said.

He added: “One of the most glaring loopholes is that anyone can apply for mutation of a land without KYC documents. Upon such an application, the land is pushed to the ‘pending mutation’ status. This can be done by anyone who wants to put that land the subject of litigation. Even the landowner will not be made aware of this development. This also pushes away genuine buyers from that particular piece of land. Lastly, there is no proper mechanism to address this. If you go to the collector, they will tell you they cannot change the data and so on. It’s a red tape nightmare for citizens.”

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