Zero Landless (Citizens) Kerala, the State government’s flagship programme aimed at eradicating the landless by 2015 through the distribution of three cents each, may run in to rough weather unless loopholes for the ineligible to infiltrate the list of beneficiaries are plugged.

The need for checks and balances is all the more amplified, as the land available for distribution is no match for the number of applicants. In Ernakulam district only 73.71 acres had been identified for distribution among 32,340 applicants as on January 31, shortfall of a whopping 896.29 acres. And applications received between February 1 and 15, the extended deadline for applying, are yet to be complied with.

Village offices have drawn up the list of beneficiaries supposedly based on door-to-door verification. But revenue officials admit it is humanly impossible for the village offices to verify the genuineness of each beneficiary and that too within a limited time considering the volume of work and limited staff.

A village office, which on average issues 60 to 100 certificates a day, must at least have a village officer, two assistant village officers, and two village men. However, village offices are made to do the additional work for the Zero Landless project without even limited staff, a village officer told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.

“The government did not allocate additional staff for the project as promised. It was impossible to verify within a limited time among other things whether the applicant has any property or stood the chance of inheriting any property in the future. We have asked the government for another screening of beneficiaries before allotting the land so that village officers are not in the dock if some unscrupulous elements had crept in,” P.S. Rajeev, State president, Kerala Land Revenue Staff Association, told The Hindu.

He said, the project was imaginative but it should have been implemented after fixing the land documents by undertaking a long pending land re-survey. The problem was that the land assigned under the project could come under a cloud whenever a re-survey is conducted in future.

K.P. Rajendran, Revenue Minister in the former LDF government, agreed that identifying genuine beneficiaries was a tough task as there was no way to verify an applicant’s claim of not having property anywhere in the State except for relying on his or her words.

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