Untangling the A-Khata, B-Khata mess

Trapped for what seems like an eternity, lakhs of property owners in the city are in a bind over an alphabetical regression. Well, that is what you call it when full ownership of your property evades you without a cumbersome, taxing documentary shift from ‘B’ Khata to ‘A’ Khata.

By all official accounts, the problem is massive. The Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) claims over 3.90 lakh properties await the conversion. A huge proportion of these property owners are now retired but uncertain and anxious about their only investment.

For years, the conversion solution was tied up with the on-off Akrama-Sakrama scheme designed to regularise building bye-law violations. By delinking the two, BBMP now wants the government to give a go-head for only the Khata conversion. Its rationale: A boost to its revenues.

Necessary amendments

But the green signal by itself will not suffice. The Karnataka Land Revenue Act and the Town & Country Planning Acts will have to be amended to put a legislative stamp on the proposed conversions. However, this may not happen in a hurry as a new government has only just assumed office.

For years, the conversion carrot was dangled before property owners with a rider: Pay betterment charges and get ready. The Palike had even fixed the charges way back in 2015: Rs 200 per sq metre for converted land in the 100 core area wards and Rs 250 per sqm for the 98 wards in the newly added areas.

A majority of the property owners were ready to pay the charges. Yet, nothing moved after the charges were fixed. Beyond drawing room debates, nothing stirred on the Akrama-Sakrama front as well. Will the latest Palike move make any difference?

Revenue generation

Cash-starved, BBMP knows there is at least Rs 1,500 crore waiting to be generated by way of penalties, taxes and conversion charges. Unlike the Akrama-Sakrama scheme, the Palike intends to target only buildings that are already regularized and sites in authorized layouts.

One reason why the last attempt at ‘B’ to ‘A’ Khata conversion failed to take off was this: The government insisted that an entire layout collectively should pay up, not just the individuals.

“Is the government now proposing that each individual owner pay the proportionate betterment charges?” asks urban planning expert V Ravichander. “Suppose there are 600 plots in a layout and the collective tax is Rs 2 crore, an individual plot owner pays only his share to get the Khata converted,” he elaborates.

Betterment charges

This method, he notes, should have been adopted in the beginning. However, this does not imply the promoter of a layout goes scot-free. “That original promoter should have earmarked space for civic amenities, parks and playgrounds in the layout. Since he/she sold more than that was allowed to be sold, a penalty in tune with the excess land sold should be levied.”

But the revenue generated from this exercise should not be put in the general BBMP kitty, Ravichander opines. “They must ring-fence the money to be used only for the development of that area,” he says, indicating that this will ensure more people coming in for Khata transfer.

For years, B Khata property owners have been caught in a bind unable to establish ownership of their buildings, obtain bank loans or get other civic benefits. The matter had been raised again in the BBMP Council in August 2018.

Only B-Register entry

Former BBMP Taxation and Finance Standing Committee Chairman M K Gunashekhar notes that B Khata is only an entry in the B-register for tax collection and nothing else. “A lot of property owners have been affected. Land-owners would obtain A Khata for a one-acre plot, convert it into smaller sites but the buyers get only B-Khata,” he notes.

B Khata holders are often at the mercy of unscrupulous middlemen who promise to get the Khatas converted through dubious means. The absence of a clear, transparent process only encourages such illegal activities.

In his Council response last year, the Palike Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad had elaborated on the problem: “B Khata property owners will have to go through many hurdles as they do not technically fall under the BBMP. ”

Low-value property

Without recognition by the local civic body, the property value too remain low. “The BBMP will soon send a proposal to the government to convert all these sites to A Khata,” Prasad had assured the Council.

In February 2019, the Palike approved the file on Khata conversion. It is currently being deliberated upon by officials of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Urban Development Department (UDD) and the Land Revenue Department.

Most of the B Khata properties in the city fall under the formed and developed layouts in the 110 villages added to the BBMP in 2007. The layouts were formed on agricultural sites.

Problem’s origin

The problem of B Khata emerged when property owners in the newly added areas failed to convert their sites to A Khata. The conversion had to be completed by 2010. Three years earlier, the erstwhile Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BMP) had morphed into BBMP by adding seven City Municipal Corporations (CMCs), one Town Municipal Corporation (TMC) and 110 villages.

The Khata conversion will not cover properties with building plan violations and those on unauthorised layouts. Complying with the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Palike will also not extend the provision to properties built on encroached stormwater drains, lake beds and catchment areas.

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