Vibhuti Sarkar, a 65-year-old farmer, is among those who have had their vested land holdings of many decades suddenly flagged as “sarkari”, or government property, in a bureaucratic bungle blamed on their “similar sounding” shared surname.
The change in ownership from Sarkar to “sarkari” meant Vibhuti was denied insurance last year for the jowar crop he had sown on five acres in Sindhanur taluk of Raichur district.
Based on his complaint, an inquiry by the revenue department revealed that holdings of 726 other people settled in three rehabilitation camps had been earmarked as government land in the records of rights, tenancy and crops. Updated data available on Bhoomi, the Karnataka government’s land records portal, reflected the change.
Prasen Raptana, a representative of the 22,000-odd erstwhile refugees settled in four rehabilitation camps of Sindhanur taluk – RH2, RH3, RH4 and RH5 – took up cudgels for Vibhuti and wrote to the Raichur DC last December about the “technical problem”. A month earlier, the assistant commissioner of Lingasugur had flagged the issue in a communication to the DC. TOI has a copy of that letter.
All the affected farmers are residents of RH 2, 3 and 4.
“We are having to contend with this strange problem for no fault of ours,” said Pankaj Sarkar, another of those caught in the land ownership tangle triggered by an unwelcome “i” being added to their surname.
“We spoke to the tehsildar, who said it was a software problem and had to be fixed in Bengaluru. Why do we have to travel to Bengaluru to fix the problem created by the government?” he told TOI.
Raptana said the 727 farmers were not only having to battle the bureaucracy, but also unable to get the MSP for their crops at government centres, mortgage land for loans and apply for crop insurance.
Sindhanur tehsildar Arun said the DC had already brought the issue to the notice of the survey settlement and land records department for changes to be made in the Bhoomi portal.
Thousands of persecuted Hindus who had fled what was then East Pakistan in 1971 were housed in refugee camps in seven states, including Karnataka. Each family was given five acres of land to make a new beginning.
For Vibhuti and his ilk, learning the difference between “Sarkar” and “sarkari” more than five decades later would certainly count as a fresh start.