Farmers become victims of land sharks and official nonchalance

Farmers become victims of land sharks and official nonchalance
Highlights

Talari Isthari (78), a senior citizen living in Thimmaipally village of Haveli Ghanpur mandal which is close to Medak town, used to cultivate 3 acres and 30 guntas of land alienated by the landlords of his village more than three decades ago.

Haveli Ghanpur (Medak): Talari Isthari (78), a senior citizen living in Thimmaipally village of Haveli Ghanpur mandal which is close to Medak town, used to cultivate 3 acres and 30 guntas of land alienated by the landlords of his village more than three decades ago. Thanks to the solar company which has come up in his village, he is now left with 1 acre and 30 guntas of land and two sons who also depend on farming for survival to share that little piece of land.

The compensation he got for alienating 2 acres of agricultural land for industrial purpose was just Rs 1 lakh for one acre, as he had to give away one more acre free of cost due to not having ‘patta.’ There are 12 farmers like him in the village and their stories are not much different. There are hundreds of farmers and families in the village who fear losing their land in a similar way; as they still don’t have ‘pattas’ for the land they have been in position for over three decades.

Strong naxal influence in the village as well and the post-enactment of Land Ceiling Act were seen as the reasons during the 80s and 90s for landlords in rural Telangana distributing their lands among the weaker sections in the village. In Timmaipally, four landlords distributed 900 acres of land. Konda Pochaiah (50) is one of those farmers who had paid Rs 3600 for buying 4 acres of land in 1981 from Janardhana Rao, one of the four village landlords. Only 2 acres and 20 guntas of land were registered though.

He is still in possession of 4 acres. Many like him tried to get their lands registered by Ramula Panthulu, VRO of the village twenty-years-ago by paying him Rs 600 per acre. The VRO was able to register only 20 to 30 acres of land. It is also learnt that Narsimha Reddy, one of the landlords had given away more than 400 acres alone to the villagers and also registered the lands in the name of the farmers. He later on became a legislator.

Only 50 or even 25 per cent of extent of lands purchased were registered in the name of the farmers (mostly from the Mudiraju and Dalit communities) by the other three landlords The farmers have the receipts for Rs 900 per acre paid by them to landlords but revenue officials have been declining to accept them as a ‘saada bainama’ because these receipts had no details about the land, survey number, or the extent of land purchased. They still have the receipts for the land tax they were made to pay in 1986, which was discontinued later.

The farmers also paid Rs 500 challan to SBH Medak branch eight-years-ago in the account of the Sub-treasury office for land registration. Lands in survey numbers 36 and 51 are yet to be registered in the name of the farmers in position of them. One Jai Bharat Reddy from Kadapa was able to purchase 250 acres of land from farmers and developed the land. He sold it to a solar power plant which is being setup in survey number 27 of Ananthasagar village (also called Obaipally), a hamlet of Thimmaipally gram panchayat. Transfer of ownership of land has been happening for the past one year.

“He had promised to construct an old-age home for us in the village but he didn’t,” said a farmer who sold his land to Jai Bharat Reddy. There is also one Raghu, an outsider, who has been actively brokering the transfer of ownership of land for the solar plant. He is known to be a close-aide of one of the landlords. The solar company has paid Rs 56 lakh to the gram panchayat as one-time-settlement for converting 250 acres of agricultural land for industrial purpose. A Gram Sabha wasn’t held for this transaction.

After the entry of solar plant, the remaining farmers who still don’t have pattas for their lands have been running around Medak MRO’s office, RDO’s office and Sangareddy District Collectorate seeking ownership of long-held land of theirs. Their pleas for justice fell on deaf years. Revenue officials have been telling them to be in possession of their lands and that nothing would happen to their lands, say the villagers.

Interestingly, some of the government lands and 13 acres of temple lands under a Hanuman temple in these villages were registered by revenue officials in the name of people in possession in the recent past. In fact, a historic well, known as Pochamma baavi was filled with mud and covered to make way for transfer of ownership.

Political parties like CPI (M) which supported the farmers initially, have strangely given up the movement. As per reliable sources, former naxals are also playing the role of brokers in this conversion of agricultural land and transfer of land ownership. Thimmaipally has a beautiful picturesque landscape as it is surrounded by hills which are also water sources for the irrigation tanks of the village. Ananthasagar and Thimmaipally is endowed with a vast area of forest cover that ensures continuous availability of water throughout the year, making these rich and fertile black soil lands perfectly suitable for cultivation of paddy which is the only crop cultivated here.

By Vivek Bhoomi

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