Telangana’s New Revenue Act: Landmark Legislation shows Power of Soft-Persuasion

This Vijayadasami day, on October 26, 2020, will mark a victory in ways more than one.

For starters, apart from the festive reason for celebrations for the victory of good over evil, it will also be the day when Dharani, the Telangana Government’s Integrated Land Records Management System, is expected to be inaugurated.

More importantly, it also marks the success of the soft persuasive approach of Civil Society bodies in the state to pursue much needed land reforms and the way the revenue system was managed so far.

In a landmark (no pun intended) development, the Telangana State Legislative Assembly had earlier this month unanimously passed the new Revenue Bills paving the way for reforms in land administration and registration in the state.

Interestingly however, a little known and a little acknowledged facet is the backstory to this move and the part of the civil society in making it happen. Rather than take the aggressive approach it goes on to prove that a collaborative and accommodate demeanour goes a long way in achieving results.

It was wayback in April 2019 at a time when the state administration had in a hesitant manner kick started the debate for the much needed reforms, that Dr Rao Chelikani had approached the Chief Minister suggesting a public-perception survey on the functioning of the Revenue Department and even offering a Civil Society campaign to highlight the plight of the citizens of harassed by the department personnel. 

Further, a series of suggestions were made on the abolition and replacement of the system of VROs with a more robust online and technology driven and transparent system and reform in various encompassing Acts, later in August this year.

What is heartening is that the comprehensive Bills – the Telangana Rights in Land and Pattadar Passbooks Bill 2020, the Telangana Abolition of the Posts of Village Revenue Officers Bill 2020, the Telangana Municipal Laws Amendment Bill 2020 and the Telangana Panchayat Raj Amendment Bill 2020, that were introduced in the house and passed without any changes, contain almost verbatim many of the suggestions made in these communications by Dr Chelikani.

“These bills are only the first step in ushering revenue reforms in the State”, the Chief Minister said in the house adding that the 160 to 170 laws in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, were brought down to 87 in Telangana State after repealing old and irrelevant Acts. Now, the Dharani website will be used as a tool to reduce corruption and improve transparency. In addition the new Revenue Act is a collection of various laws, he said.

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