• Honest Officer
  • 10 years ago
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Overcoming Karaikudi tahsildar's refusal to acknowledge patta transfer application.

Reported on July 7, 2014 from Karaikudi , Tamil Nadu  ι Report #41879

This is NOT a story of a direct bribe demand and refusal, but is similar in spirit. But there was one positive intervention by a public official, among others who have been uncooperative. Hence I am including it here.

1. My father died on January 19, 2013, at the age of 91. Since some weeks after that, we have been trying to get a transfer of name or title to a small plot of land in O. Siruvayal, our native village, from his name to mine. Relatives of mine who live in O. Siruvayal or Karaikudi, or near those places, have been trying now for some 15 months to help me with this.

2. They got -- from the Village Administrative officer and the Karaikudi tahsildar's office -- a list the documentation necessary -- death certificate, will, no-objection letters from siblings, and various other documents -- and those were provided together with a covering letter seeking to apply for a transfer of title, sometime in the second half of 2013 (last year).

3. The relatives helping me tried contacting to the Village Administrative Officer, O. Siruvayal, who refused to accept the application but apparently recommended that it be given directly to the tahsildar in Karaikudi. The application then sat with someone in the Karaikudi tahsildar's office for 7-8 months and nothing happened ('Come after Vijayadasami/Deepavali/Pongal/Tamil New year/elections...'). Even their plea for an ACKNOWLEDGMENT of the application was denied despite repeated personal visits to the Karaikudi tahsildar's office.

It appears that the reluctance to provide an acknowledgment stems from the belief that an application will have to be processed within a fixed period of time once it is acknowledged as received. For reasons best known to themselves (I do not want to speculate more about the tahsildar's motives) his office was reluctant to accept our application.

4. I wrote a "grievance email" to the Collector, Sivaganga District (using an email-ID I found on a TN Govt website, http://www.tn.gov.in/collectors#18) asking him: "How does one solve the basic problem of getting an acknowledgment of an application for a transfer of title? Can we submit the application to you, online (i.e. via email, like this email, with attachments including scanned-in signed documents), and get you to forward that to the concerned tahsildar?"

5. The next day a relative helping me got a call from the Village Officer, and then a few days later, the Karaikudi tahsildar wrote back acknowledging receiving the application but now stipulating 3 additional requirements that he never mentioned earlier.

Of these 3 -- one, getting an Encumbrance Certificate seemed very reasonable, and has been done; another involves getting the previously submitted sibling-no-objection affidavit registered when earlier we were told it needed to be notarized and it is already notarized in TN (from oral conversation my relatives have had, they suspect that the fact that it is already notarized in TN has been overlooked); the third, getting a legal heir certificate is something for which this same tahsildar is himself the competent authority, and has already had the application for this certificate for several weeks, with all supporting documents,

5. The relatives helping me are people with jobs and families and concerns and time pressures of their own, but have been willing to take time out to try and help me. The tahsildar's office, and its flat-out refusal to acknowledge an application, is proving a difficult wall to scale (though one brief intervention by the Sivaganga Collector after my initial email made some difference in one application).

6. It seems tragic that a tahsildar or a registrar or other similar official can simply refuse to acknowledge applications for public services. I hope it will be possible to institute a system under which the tahsildar cannot arbitrarily refuse to acknowledge an application -- I am sure there are many others who have also suffered the same plight.

7. Once there is some record, at least via an email or an online submission of an application, there is some hope of at least using an RTI query to gain more information about delays, out-of-turn processing, etc. Please help. Thank you.

8. Relating to RTI in TN: for officials beneath the level of a Collector -- like a tahsildar, Village Administrative Officer, sub-registrar -- the public contact information available through govt websites (e.g. http://www.tn.gov.in/rti/) is quite useless. It provides often only a designation, no postal address with PIN code, or phone or fax numbers, let alone email-IDs. (At or above the level of a Collector, it seems to provide better information, though for someone without experience, figuring out the right govt office can still prove a challenge, especially since communication by a govt office is conspicuous generally only by its absence.)

9. At least simple low-tech measures to encourage all applicants to demand an acknowledgment (placing a large public notice in a prominent location saying "You have a right to an acknowledgment," encouraging e-filing of applications, even incomplete applications, via internet connections in public libraries, to overcome lack of personal computers in small towns and villages) would be a start. Govt officials should be required to acknowledge an application immediately, and to state in writing why an application is incomplete or cannot be processed.

What is your reaction after reading this report?