Site owners trapped in paperwork

In the vast expanse of the City’s new BBMP areas, khata is a tricky word. It is something you keep delaying to be sorted out another day.

Trapped in a maze of poorly designed layouts with shoddy paperwork, caught in perennial problems of water, drainage, roads and connectivity, residents here are in no hurry to get into another mixed up tangle.

For, the search for a valid khata – ‘A’ khata to be precise—is an invitation to a chaotic pursuit of sale deeds and title deeds, mother deeds and approved plans, tax-paid receipts, improvement charges, and yes, bribery. Falling prey to conmen, running the risk of getting fabricated documents, the site owners are wary, confused, and deeply insecure.

Ummer Sharief, a resident of Annasandrapalya near KR Puram had a mountain of problems to climb as he attempted to sell his 30’X40’ plot. His desperate effort to get the A-Khata and all the paperwork in order was met with a cold Palike wall. The election-busy staffers wouldn’t budge an inch. Eventually, Rs 40,000 and a hundred run-arounds did the trick.

Fortunately for him, he had a ledger number and papers relevant to the HAL Sanitary Board. The Board was the sanctioning authority when he bought the plot decades ago.

But, there are thousands of site owners in KR Puram, Mahadevapura and other new BBMP areas who possess no such document, not even the records of the KR Puram City Municipal Council (CMC) that came later. Steep betterment charges levied was one big issue. Most residents had not switched over from the Sanitary Board to CMC and then to the BBMP paying that improvement charge. Their common refrain: There was no development, so why did we have to pay development charge.

The expanding Palike had in 2007, brought under its fold seven CMCs and a Town Municipal Corporation (TMC), apart from 110 villages. Also added were about 10 lakh additional properties. This increased the Palike’s potential to generate revenue manifold.  But to tap this vast revenue pool, BBMP had to first bring the site owners under its net. So it began advertising a ‘B’ register, to draw property taxes from site owners who were to be extended the civic amenities.

Over the years, however, the register—essentially a property identification exercise, earned a mistaken name as B-Khata. Hundreds of property owners got hoodwinked as agents and local BBMP personnel connived to extract huge bribes to provide a non-existent ‘B’ khata. The racket got so pervasive that the BBMP commissioner himself had to clarify that there was no such thing as ‘B’ khata and it was ‘bogus’.

Those who are aware that the ‘B’ Khata is a mistaken name for an entry in the ‘B’ Register to facilitate property tax payment, also know their real pursuit should be the ‘A’ khata. But even with the relevant documents, that is not an easy chase. Lissy Thomas, a resident of Marathahalli realised that as she approached the local BBMP office. “They first looked at the documents and then decided on the bribe. It was not a cakewalk for me,” she recalls.

Property owners had hoped that with an affordable improvement charge, and documents in order, they could obtain permanent khatas and be at peace with the Palike too. But the hefty uniform rate of Rs 550 per square metre fixed by BBMP led to property owners and developers going to court. Now that the new rate has been quashed, it is back to square one.   

On February 7, 2011, a BBMP circular on differential rates had raised hopes of a permanent solution to the land documentation issue.

The order was issued in anticipation of an amendment to the Karnataka Land Revenue Act and framing of rules. Months before that, the Palike had halted issue of khata to sites in layouts formed without land conversion and approvals from the relevant planning authorites, including the Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BM­RDA) and Bangalore International Air­­­p­ort Area Planning Authority (BIAAPA).

Identified for collection of improvement charges were layouts developed on converted revenue land, BDA approved layouts on converted revenue land, sites on land converted for non-agricultural purposes, besides layouts developed by KIADB, KSSIDC, and KHB. The list also included land acquired by KIADB for single industrial units, properties legalised as per section 94( C) of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act and properties re-conveyed by BDA.

The Palike’s earlier circulars in November and December 2007 to collect improvement charges had to be dropped after legal challenges. Rules were drafted by BBMP in 2009 following the High Court’s order in 2008.

The State government approved the rules in February, 2010. The BBMP Council in December 2010, eventually approved the improvement charges fixed based on differential rates.  

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