In the aftermath of Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976, large tracts of land were frozen or contested under litigation in Andhra Pradesh, which was amongst the last states to repeal the Act. As of 2001, of the total 64,236,796 acres of land 141,363 acres (22%) was under litigation. This has led to severe distortion of the land market and particularly hit the urban poor. As a result, we saw rising encroachments on government land by the urban poor. Post the repeal of the urban ceiling law, various government orders were officiated to regularize these dwellings upon the residents producing sufficient proofs, prior to an agreed cut –off date. The process of ‘transfer of rights to certain categories of occupants of unassigned government lands’ initiated in 2008 through a government order remained pending till 2012. After sustained efforts from our client, an elected official in Andhra Pradesh, revenue office started the process of analyzing the genuine householderswho had an occupation proof prior to 2003. However, of the 819 applications submitted to Municipal Revenue Office (MRO), 755 (92%) were rejected. The client asked Swaniti to review all the applications and take a fresh look at criteria which had led to their rejection by the Revenue department.
The first task before the Swaniti team was to identify bottlenecks which were preventing regularization of a large number of landholdings. After extensive interactions with the Revenue Department and aggrieved landholders, the Swaniti team identified excessive paperwork as a major bottleneck in the process. The Team observed that multiple documents were required to be produced as part of the regularization application. The MRO had also rejected several applications on the basis that the house number did not match the existing house address. This was found to be a clear case of misinterpretation of the rules, and led to avoidable delays in the application process.
The next step was to identify ways to streamline paperwork without compromising any rules or regulations. For this, Swaniti identified several redundant requirements such as the need for electricity bills, which could be eliminated. Other processes were also identified which could be shortened or considerably simplified. After this, the next important step was to share these ideas and secure buy-ins from multiple stakeholders, especially the Revenue Department.
Finally, the Team was able to recommend a modified process for land regularization, and proposed to institutionalize the process for all future applications. This process included digitization of all applications to increase transparency and reduce delays.
After an analysis of the applications for land regularization,the Swaniti Team found 317 cases where applicants were eligible for regularization. However, only 62 out of these applications had been accepted by the Revenue Department. Swaniti successfully launched an advocacy drive to get the additional applications accepted – a more than 400% increase from the earlier 62.