The Telangana government on Monday scrapped the Village Revenue Officer (VRO) system in the state. All VROs have been asked to submit their records to the office of their respective District Collectors by 3 pm the same day. The scrapping of the VRO system comes at a time when the state has tabled a new Revenue Bill to bring in more transparency and weed out departmental corruption.
Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar on Monday directed all District Collectors to collect records of the department from VROs by 3 pm and submit them to the government by 5 pm. The state will present the new Revenue Bill 2020 on Wednesday in the monsoon session of the Assembly, the states Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao informed media. The new Bill, if passed, will replace 139 revenue and land legislations and rules that are redundant and irrelevant, the government said.
The new Bill aims to weed out corruption plaguing the Revenue Department by reducing human interface for land transactions. The new Bill will make legal the use of blockchain technology that will automatically update land records and mutations immediately. A pilot project for the same was being run by the Revenue Department in coordination with the Information Technology and Electronics Department in Shamshabad area at the outskirts of Hyderabad since 2018.
In September last year, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had hinted about the abolition of the VRO system owing to several allegations of corruption. The CM was then quoted as saying, "The ‘Patels and Patwaris’ have gone as they were seen as symbols of repression and replaced with the VRO system.If the VROs are found to be worse than the ‘Patel and Patwari’ system, then they too will have to go"
Since then, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in Telangana has caught several revenue officials red handed for taking bribes. Data released by the ACB in 2019, shows that out of the 173 cases booked against government officials that year, revenue department officials topped the list with 54 cases. The employees of Municipal Administration and the Home departments stood second and third respectively.
In July this year, a Dalit farmer took his life in Veluru village in Gajwel municipality of Telangana following an alleged incident of land grabbing by local revenue authorities and the Sarpanch. The issue snowballed into a controversy as the farmer, Byagari Narsimhulu, recorded a voice note and a selfie before taking his life, accusing officials of attempting to take over 13 guntas of land owned by the farmer to build a Rythu Vedika in the village.
The farmer claimed that the village Sarpanch, Village Revenue Officer and Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) created hurdles and did not let him claim his land.