Excessive delays in clearing files, demand for money to process applications, long queues of citizens compelled to run from pillar to post, poor implementation of citizen-centric services and dereliction of duty by government officials — unscheduled visits by Karnataka’s Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda to revenue offices has exposed the rot in the system across the state.
Live-posting his “surprise visits” on social media pages, seeking accountability from officials over dereliction of duty, and interacting with citizens queuing up to complain over lapses in delivery of services, Krishna Byre Gowda has sparked off a flurry of reactions from citizens — ranging from appreciation to scepticism.
The minister’s visits have not only exposed the alarming lapses in the Revenue Department but also the urgent need to begin a thorough clean-up.
Pulling up officials
Ever since assuming office in May, the minister has held review meetings in at least 17 districts. The meetings revealed the need for urgent reforms in the functioning of key government offices.
During these unscheduled visits, the minister was seen pulling up officials in full public view. In one instance, at the Turvekere taluk office in Tumakuru, he found an application for constructing a road to agricultural land lying unattended since December 2022. The minister issued notices to the reportedly errant officials.
To tackle the root causes of inefficiency, Krishna Byre Gowda is said to be looking to streamline taluka, nada kacheri, and other revenue offices. The process includes transitioning towards a paperless system, embracing digitalization, and implementing new measures to expedite processes.
In addition to field visits that is giving the officials a reality check of sorts, Byre Gowda is addressing the backlog of 37,650 revenue court cases pending at the Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, and Tahsildar levels for the past five years or more.
Since assuming office, 24,079 cases have been disposed of in a record time. The minister said he has set a timeline for officials to clear the pending cases by the end of January 2024.
ಕಂದಾಯ ಇಲಾಖೆ ಪ್ರಗತಿ ಪರಿಶೀಲನೆಗಾಗಿ ಇಂದು ಚಿತ್ರದುರ್ಗಕ್ಕೆ ಆಗಮಿಸಿದ್ದು, ಹೊಸದುರ್ಗ ತಾಲೂಕು ಮಾಡದಕೆರೆ ನಾಡ ಕಚೇರಿಗೆ ದಿಢೀರ್ ಭೇಟಿ ನೀಡಿ ಪರಿಶೀಲಿಸಲಾಯಿತು.
Arrived this morning at Chitradurga for revenue department progress review meeting. A surprise visit to Hosadurga taluk Madadakere village… pic.twitter.com/g9FzmWdiS0
— Krishna Byre Gowda (@krishnabgowda) October 10, 2023
The minister’s key to ‘fix’ issues
“I have been undertaking unscheduled visits to see the reality in taluka, nada kacheri, and related offices. I observed that the people spend much time to get their work done at these offices,” Krishna Byre Gowda told South First.
“To address these issues, we are trying to streamline our offices by introducing a paperless system to expedite the processes. We can easily track files in real-time. If there are any delays, it can be easily identified. We have also upgraded the software at Atalji Janasnehi Kendras (nada kacheri). An SMS along with link will be sent to the people about the services they have sought,” he explained.
“People can apply through the link forwarded to their mobile phones. Using the same link, they can avail an acknowledgment note and download certificate as well. Our goal is to make peoples’ applications move faster. This system is the only solution now. We are also identifying other ways to address the issues,” he said.
On the condition of anonymity, a revenue official told South First some of the issue dogging the department: “No proper display of services and price chart at the offices, taking extra money from the public, failure to clear the files in a time-bound manner, employees not reporting to work on time, and other minor issues have been observed by the minister.”
“The minister inspects the taluka office, record rooms, tapal (mail) sections and survey offices, nada kacheris, and the village accountant office during his visits. He has served notices to several officials, who were found to be lagging in delivering services to the public or clearing the backlog,” he elaborated.
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Mounting revenue court cases
The minister found that over 32,787 revenue court cases have been pending at the Assistant Commissioner level alone for the past five years or more.
Additionally, thousands of cases have been lying unresolved for three years or more at the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Assistant Commissioner (AC), and Tahsildar offices, highlighting a critical issue that has persisted for an extended period.
Since assuming office in May, Byre Gowda said decisive action has been taken to tackle this significant challenge.
“In six months, we have cleared 1,310 cases at the DC level, 22,626 cases at the AC level, and 134 cases at the Tahsildar level, which were pending for over five years,” he said.
“In doing so, we have managed to reduce the average timeframe from disposal of cases from 212 to 134 days, marking a substantial improvement in the efficiency of the revenue court system,” he added.
“Apart from this, we are also making efforts to dispose of Bhoomi Mutations in quick time,” he spoke about his plans.
Clearing the cases
According to the Revenue Department, “1,645 cases were pending at the Tahsildar court for the past one to two years in May. Now, it has been brought down to 685 cases. In the same office, 412 cases were pending for the last two to five years in May. It has been reduced to 44 cases.”
“A total of 13,121 cases were pending in the AC court for the last one or two years in May. It has been reduced to 9,506 cases. In the same office, there were 13,431 cases backlog for over two to five years. It has been brought down to 11,960 cases.”
“In the DC court, 1,748 cases were pending for the last one to two years. It has been reduced to 1,726 cases. 2,487 cases were pending for over two to five years. The backlog has been reduced to 2,260 cases. A record 30,732 backlog revenue court cases have been disposed of since May 2023,” the department claimed.
An official of Revenue department said the DCs and ACs have been given six months to clear a revenue court case, whereas it is only three months for cases before the Tahsildar. “We are expediting the process to clear the backlog at the earliest,” he said requesting anonymity.
“The DCs and ACs will have six months’ to clear a revenue court case, whereas it is only three months for a Tahsildar. We are expediting the process to clear these backlog at the earliest.”
“It was found out that some of the ACs and Tahsildars modus operandi was not overwhelming. These officials do work only when they are either asked to clear the case or under pressure. This is one of the main reasons for the backlog of thousands of cases in DC, AC and Tahsildar courts.”
He blamed laggardness on the part of some ACs and DCs for the huge backlog.
“After the revenue minister cautioned all officials, they fell in line. The minister is keeping a tab on the work. The officials have been given a deadline of January-end to clear all the backlog of cases,” he explained.