A notification issued by Sindh Board of Revenue to ban land transactions — whether state or privately owned — has made it impossible for farmers to secure bank loans through mortgages.
The notification was issued following apex court’s December 4 order, banning mutation of state land. The Supreme Court’s order, according to farmers, is being misinterpreted by BoR.
A growers’ representative says: “Since all land transactions are banned after notification, the farmers are unable to get their property mortgaged with the banks to seek loans for upcoming summer crop season. Even sale certificates are not being issued by revenue officials.”
Last year, the apex court had discussed the required reconstruction of torched records — following Sindh-wide arsons witnessed after assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 — and had also banned state land transactions in the province.
A similar directive was issued in May 2009 by a division bench of Sindh High Court, Hyderabad Circuit. The court had stayed reconstruction of record on the ground that it was not being done the way it was planned. The stay was vacated after some time and the farmers had also moved the court to seek relief for mortgaging of land to seek loans. The court had modified the order, accepting the farmers’ plea.
However, the BoR authorities, according to some farmers, have misinterpreted order of apex court which had not called for a blanket ban on all kinds of transactions on private, agricultural and state land. The court, according to newspaper reports, had banned mutation of state land in view of reports of fraud, especially in Karachi and Thatta.
For early Kharif sowing, the farmers need bank loans. This is only possible when they mortgage their farmland with banks through passbooks. Passbook is a legal instrument issued by BoR; an entry is made by registrar’s office and then farmers submit the book to bank for getting loan. But now entries cannot be made by registrar’s office as mortgaging of land has been ‘banned.’
“We say that entire action of BoR is based on mala fide intention because apex court’s order is not being implemented in letter and spirit. BoR doesn’t share the court’s order with us, but all kind of transactions are simply not banned. Apex court’s order deals with some districts where state land-related scams are reported, but BoR banned everything”, says Mehmood Nawaz Shah, Sindh Abadgar Board’s (SAB) general secretary.
SAB has welcomed the court’s directive regarding proper upkeep of revenue record but criticises BoR’s notification to ban all kind of land related transactions.
“Questions were raised during proceedings of case pertaining to reconstruction and rewriting of revenue record following assassination of Benazir Bhutto. But senior members of BoR was unable to satisfactorily respond to SC’s queries”, says SAB president Abdul Majeed Nizamani.
According to the president, all records were ordered to be transferred to Mukhtiarkar office. In his view, the BoR authorities, in fact, have contravened directive of Supreme Court by issuing such an absurd and vague notification which stopped transactions regarding privately-owned land in Sindh.
Sindh Chamber of Agriculture’s (SCA) general secretary Nabi Bux Sathio claims that notification is being used as a tool to mint money from farmers. “Farmers are told that if they want to mortgage property and sell or purchase land they can avail it after paying illegal gratification”, he alleges.
His information is that revenue officials have kept two pages in revenue record blank to have space to make backdated entries. “One page has at least 30 entries which can be made and revenue staff charges Rs50,000 to Rs100,000 for that”, he charges.
However, according to a revenue official, “We don’t even issue sales certificate to be obtained from Mukhtiarkar’s office that such and such land is not under litigation and can be sold”.
Banks have refused to accept passbooks and other related documents to provide credit.