Ever since octogenarian leader and senior Congress leader Kagodu Thimmappa took charge as Revenue Minister, he is on a crusade to streamline the Revenue Department. With the state government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah facing a tough time due to the alleged harassment of government officials and suicides of police officers, Mr Thimmappa, who once led the socialist movement including the historic Kagodu Satyagraha, could be an apt role model for young politicians, with 40 years experience in politics. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, he shared his views on the present scenario. Excerpts:
What steps have been taken to ensure title deeds to forest dwellers under the Forest Rights’ Act after you became minister?
This is long pending issue which needs to be dealt with effectively. A meeting had been held to approve guidelines and in the next meeting, the government will issue the guidelines where have to be adhered to by officials in dealing with forest rights.
Till now, the Act has not been implemented. That’s why we have decided to implement it by December. First, village forest committees have to be set up. Till now, 4-5 lakh applications have been received but if we work effectively, then we can get 2-3 lakh more applications. Our officials need to pull up their socks and work swiftly to ensure justice.
As this issue comes under the social welfare department officials are functioning slowly in ensuring justice to forest dwellers. With regard to the issue of producing documents by applicants that they are residing in forest areas since three generations, the Centre has issued a circular that domicile could be considered by referring to the 13 evidences that they are residing in forests, but the officials are yet to get this into their head. In Shivamogga district, Deputy Commissioner V.P. Ikkeri is working effectively in settling the forest rights issue which everybody needs to emulate.
The system in the Revenue Department has not been people-friendly. What action is being taken to streamline the department?
See to streamline the department I cannot do any magic. It has to be done systematically. My first motto is to clear all the bagair hukum applications which needs to be completed by December. The committees have to be formed in each district to hold meetings with the respective applicants in two sittings and finalise the amount to be paid in the third meeting.
First of all, bagair hukum committees are yet to be formed in all 30 districts. In order to avoid corrupt practices in the assistant commissioners’ and deputy commissioners’ offices to issue land records (Pakka Podi) to farmers under the Bhoomi scheme, stringent action is being intiated.
Earlier the ACs used to handle the Pakka Podi, in order to avoid harassment to farmers, now the powers have been given to the tahsildars to issue Pakka Podi, for which the Government Order has also been passed. Steps have been taken to appoint village accountants and surveyors and orders have been issued to deputy commissioners to appoint village accountants (VAs) and recruit 1300 surveyors in the state.
Earlier the VAs were not staying in their respective villages, now we are thinking of building separate quarters for them so that they could be physically present in villages to look after day-to-day affairs of the gram panchayats.
On corruptions in the revenue department, it is like a cancer which cannot be controlled by me alone, there has to be a collective approach to root it out. I also received complaints that tahsildars take money to issue caste certificates for which there is no provision at all. Such bad practices have to be stopped to make the department people friendly.
Recently, the assistant commissioner of Hassan allegedly attempted suicide, what do you have to say about it?
Being a senior officer, one should not take such a hasty decision which is not a good development. Man is a social animal. Who else other than him enjoys all facilities on this planet? If such senior officers take extreme steps, then what will be the condition of the common people?
One week back I received a representation through a lawyer against the lady with heaps of complaint files. But whatever may be the issue, I had told the chief secretary to cancel her transfer order. If there are any grievances, such officers should share their difficulties with the competent authorities to resolve their issues.
The image of the state government has been damaged due to the recent deaths of police officers and also reports of harassment of IAS and IPS officers. What do you have to say about this? Have you advised the Chief Minister on improving the administrative machinery to avoid corruption and harassment?
No no. The government’s image has not been damaged. It is fine. If this was the case, it could have been damaged because of earlier cases too. On advising the Chief Minister on administrative matters, I was in a position to tell him what to do when I was Speaker. Now I am in a position to do things and prove how to run the administration effectively.
With regard to the issue of former minister K.J.George who is facing allegations in the suicide case of DySP M.K.Ganapati, the government seems to have lost public confidence. What do you have to say?
No the government has not lost confidence. And if that is the case, then the government has to regain confidence through good governance.
In Mysuru, Deputy Commissioner C.Shikha has been allegedly threatened by Mr Marigowda who is a close confidant of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
I do not have to say anything about it. A complaint has been registered against Mr Marigowda, the law will take its own course.