The Need to Make a Fuss about Bona Vacantia Lands

Hyderabad city was built in 1591 and has a history of more than 425 years. The estimated population of Hyderabad in 2014 was 8.7 million. These figures make it the 4th most overcrowded city in India.

A moment ago, the government of the state of Telangana had successfully completed the comprehensive land survey. Now, a way has been cut, by which the concerned authorities could focus on identifying and regulating the Bona Vacantia lands.

The History of Bona Vacantia Lands

After re-entering the history of Hyderabad, it becomes evident that once the Confederacy of Hyderabad state with India had taken place in 1948, all those lands, which were till then in the hands of the Nizam rulers, were trespassed in a slow and phased manner. These encroached lands are worth many billion dollars. Apart from the lands owned by the Nizam, many acres of fertile lands and farms were owned by the employees and other private allies of Nizam.

Most of the allies of Nizam, instead of facing Operation Polo, rushed to various foreign nations including Pakistan, London — to settle down abroad. There arose a need for identifying the undisclosed lands belonging to these people for declaring them as Bona Vacantia (a Latin word, which literally means ownerless goods), and for their subsequent transfer into the government account. In Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts, there were many such lands. The then colonized government did not have the answer to what has happened to such lands.

In reality, after capturing the state from Nizam government, the Military Government prepared a file comprising of all the details of most of such lands. It was then popularly known as Red Book. The ‘Red Book’ was secured in Hyderabad collectorate. The whereabouts of the Red Book are not known now, as it has been allegedly missing for quite some time. From the other side, most of the immigrants from various places in India have suddenly possessed various properties in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts in the form of lands.

The astonishing fact here is that while the people who are born and brought up in Nizam Sansthan do not possess hundreds of acres of lands, the encroachers do. It is evident that in Nizam leadership, there were many Jageerdars and Zamindars. They were very rich with the imprecise property.

But, the encroachers now possess more property than the legal heirs of those Zamindars and Jaageerdars. Telangana people back the opinion that the desolate buildings, in which the poor people live, have been dragged by the encroachers into the courts in the pretext of owning them through mediators at very cheaper rates.

In Nizam Sansthan, there were 16 districts of Hyderabad state. Most of the lands in the districts of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy, among these 16 districts, were Surf-e-Kaz lands. Surf-e-Kaz land means the land reserved by Nizam for his personal needs. Apart from so much of land that was given to the poor, charity institutions, hospitals, officials and allies of Nizam, the Nizam had more than 2 lakh acres of Surf-e-Kaz land. Nizam utilized the income on these lands for his personal spending.

After the merger of the state with India in 1948, many officials, ministers, and employees of Nizam traveled to various countries. They left so much land belonging to them, unattended. Mainly the people who migrated to other nations lived in Banjara Hills, Nampally, Saidabad, Jubilee Hills, Charminar, Khairatabad, and Ameerpet. It is a historical truth that Bona Vacantia lands accounting for thousands of acres existed in erstwhile Hyderabad district when the state was merged with India in 1948.

Under section 9 of Bona Vacantia (the lands without ownership or undisclosed lands) act-1974, the Tahsildar can own such lands, which are undisclosed. The joint collector issues a notification under Section 11 (1) to this extent. Within three months of such a notice, the joint collector should be informed of the divergence, if any.

Such lands owned by the government are not to be allotted to anyone, before thirteen years from the date of taking over into a government account. Despite the fact that the government has every right to such land, it does not possess any right to transfer such property. Like Surf-E-Kaz lands, there were many acres of land in the name of Non-Indian security Forces. Such lands can also be owned by the government or else can be deposited in Landbank, according to this act.

Most of the Nizam employees lived in Nampally, Ameerpet, Asif Nagar, Charminar, Saidabad, Khairatabad, Bandla Guda Mandals. The top officials of Nizam government used to have big mansions and many acres of land in their name. When these employees and allies of Nizam migrated to various countries after the merger of the Hyderabad state with India, the then rulers didn’t own these lands officially.

Rather, they allegedly took the most of the situation and have allegedly created forged documents to own them. The people of Telangana claim that few people owned such lands in the name of regularisation, while few people owned them adding the survey numbers of adjacent lands to such lands.

The Nizam earmarked many acres of land for the sake of the security of the foreigners in Hyderabad, in the name of Non-Indian Security Force lands. But his generosity had taken the heavens and never found a place in government calculations. Most of the lands were earmarked under this code head in Secunderabad, Banjara Hills, Maredpalli and Cantonment. History is the only evidence to substantiate that long before such lands have been encroached and owned by many dominating people or the leaders of the time.

In the year 2003, a notice was issued by the government to own 2.20 acres of land in Shaikpet Mandal under Bona Vacantia Act. After three months, the land was added to the government account. The present value of this land is approximately 500crores. Many attempts have been made by the influential people to own the Bona Vacantia lands for the reason that the ownership of such lands has not been authenticated so far.

The Need of the Hour

As it is a known fact that recently a comprehensive land survey was clinched by the Telangana State government to identify the actual owners of the land. The main purpose of the survey was intended for the effective implementation of the Rythu Bandhu Scheme, prestigiously undertaken by the Telangana government. The segregation of Bona Vacantia lands as of 1974 could be undertaken from the details of recently collected data through a comprehensive land survey in Telangana. After that, the data should be compared with the government records. Those lands, which are supposed to be in government’s account and presently owned in an illegal way by the encroachers, should be retrieved by this method, straightaway.

Similarly, the lands in the name of Non-Indian Security Forces are to be identified and taken back by the govt. The need of the hour is to protect such lands from the hands of encroachers.

Such an act looked-for years, if undertaken by the government, would give the best implication to the phenomenal work of comprehensive land survey that was collectively undertaken by the legislators and the bureaucrats of the state of Telangana.

–      Dr. Suman Kumar Kasturi