Vibhuti SarkarA 65-year-old farmer, he is among those who had their land holdings acquired over many decades suddenly branded as “sarkari”, or government property, in a bureaucratic botch attributed to their shared “similar-sounding” surname.
Sarkar’s change of ownership to “sarkari” meant that Vibhuti was denied insurance last year for the jowar crop he had planted on five acres in Sindhanur taluk from Raichur district.
Based on his complaint, an investigation by the revenue department revealed that the properties of another 726 people settled in three rehabilitation camps had been assigned as government land in the rights, tenure and harvest registers. Updated data available on Bhoomi, the Karnataka government’s land records portal, reflected the change.
Prasen Raptana, a representative of the more than 22,000 former refugees settled in four Sindhanur taluk rehabilitation camps – RH2, RH3, RH4 and RH5 – took the reins from Vibhuti, writing to Raichur DC last December about the “technical problem”. A month earlier, Lingasugur’s deputy commissioner had pointed out the problem in a communication to DC. TOI has a copy of that letter.
All affected farmers are residents of RH 2, 3 and 4.
“We have to deal with this strange problem through no fault of our own,” he said. Pankaj Sarkaranother of those caught up in the land ownership entanglement sparked by an unwanted “i” being added to his last name.
“We talked to the tehsildar who said it was a software problem and it had to be fixed in Bangalore. Why do we have to travel to Bangalore to fix the problem created by the government?” he told TOI.
Raptana said the 727 farmers not only had to fight bureaucracy, but also were unable to obtain MSP for their crops at government centers, mortgage land for loans and apply for crop insurance.
Sindhanur tehsildar Arun said that the DC had already notified the land registration and survey settlement department of the problem for changes to be made to 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 start.
For Vibhuti and his ilk, learning the difference between “Sarkar” and “sarkari” more than five decades later would certainly count as a fresh start.