Drive to reclaim govt land to be revived

Balasubramaniam to submit progress reports to High Court

Drive to reclaim govt land to be revived

Retired IAS officer V Balasubramaniam is all set to revive his work to identify encroached public land across the State, much to the discomfiture of the ruling BJP. The land records of the revenue department will also be scanned and digitised.

But this time, he will submit his reports to High Court of Karnataka and not to the government because he has been appointed the Court Commissioner to supervise the work on preservation and protection of public land. He will be, like in the past as the chairperson of the Task Force for Recovery of Public Land and its Protection, working in tandem with revenue department officials.

When Karunakara Reddy was the revenue minister, he had rejected the Task Force report without giving any valid reason. The report had revealed that about 12 lakh acres of public or government land had been encroached. The government has so far recovered just 47,000 acres of land, according to Balasubramaniam. The government land includes tanks, lakes, water bodies, public paths, playgrounds, common space, gomalas and burial grounds.

Balasubramaniam, who will function from the office of the Karnataka Public Land Corporation, will commence work in September.

Digitisation of records

The government is now compelled to complete the scanning and digitising work of the records pertaining to government land as it has to submit a progress report to the court on October 16.

With the Court Commissioner supervising the work, the revenue department will not be able to postpone the work indefinitely.

Files ‘misplaced’

The High Court, in 2003, while hearing a petition pertaining to the Inam Abolition Act, had directed the revenue department to place before it the records concerned. But the department could not do so as files were ‘misplaced’ by its officials. While hearing several such petitions, the court had directed the revenue department to scan and digitise the records pertaining to government lands of all types. Many top bureaucrats of the department had appeared before the court and sought time to complete the work.

Justice Hulawadi Ramesh, while hearing the case on August 17, had appointed Balasubramaniam as the Court Commissioner to supervise the work of the revenue department.

The judge said it was the responsibility of the government to protect its land. Several government lands have been encroached upon adjacent to private properties or independently.

It is the responsibility of the department concerned to preserve and protect the property of the government from unscrupulous elements, the court observed.

The judge stated that assistance of the police could be taken to protect government land. Officials of the revenue department should extend co-operation to the Court Commissioner and come out with statistics of the land available with the government, he said. The government, it is learnt, is going to accord additional chief secretary status to the Court Commissioner.

Removing encroachments

Balasubramaniam told Deccan Herald that his responsibilities include supervising the work by the revenue department officials in scanning and digitising the land records, protecting government land by removing encroachments and adding the restored land to the Land Bank of the government.

“In a way, I will continue the work I did as the chairman of the Task Force. But at that time, the Task Force was abandoned and the report was trashed. Now, I will submit the progress reports to the court. I will have to monitor the work done by officials from taluk level to district level,” Balasubramaniam said.

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