If you are a Bangalorean the most frequently used word in your circles would be – ‘Khata’! And it is often made out to be a premium document, procuring which is again made out to be an uphill or an impossible task without a bribe!
But what is a Khata?
A Khata is basically a Persian word which means Account, the use of the term came into being during the regime of rulers like Tipu Sultan but is still prevalent in the real estate lexicon as it is a livelihood giving word to many touts.
A Khata is a revenue document which facilitates assessment and calculation of your property taxes. It records details like – size of the property, location, built up area and identifies the actual owner of the property who is liable to pay property taxes. Essentially it is an account with your municipality that identifies you as the owner liable to pay property taxes. As per definitive rules on paper it is deemed as a must have document for applying for Bank Loans, getting Electricity and Water connections etc but in today’s world where we are paying property taxes online with or without a Khata and even able to procure electricity, water connections and bank loans without the need to furnish a Khata makes the very concept of Khata obsolete and irrelevant. Also a Khata does not have anything to do with ownership as the tittle deeds take care of it. In this digital age where we have already aligned our Aadhar card with Banks, pay online property taxes without a Khata or E Khata and importantly the sale deeds have our pictures on it, makes the Khata an archaic headache of a practice that our Governments must soon shun.
But since this dated paperwork is still not revoked most of us are smitten with it as if to a sought after commodity procuring which is made out to be an arduous task by the touts and mythmakers. Hence most people are trapped into paying some Bribe to procure this document called Khata which is deemed important when you are selling your property.
Since I had no plans of selling my property nor was I desperate to procure this document by paying up a Bribe I had decided I would never apply for it in the first case until it became completely online and stabilized at a stage where the Khata would be couriered home to me. Even the PID generated in an E Khata is of no value addition as we are already paying our taxes online without any PID and the E Khata is of little help as of now as ultimately one has to still see those beautiful BBMP faces while physically collecting the Khata from your nearest BBMP center or Kiosk!
I had expressed the same sometime back to a few fellow residents in my apartment who shared similar thoughts during times when many others in the community had opted to get it done by paying a bribe. In fact all that Bribe giving was facilitated and organized as if it was some Khata Mela! And this kind of unabashed display of moral unconsciousness, openly normalizing a corrupt practice had shocked us!
We decided we shall apply together, individually and make sure we do not succumb into paying any bribe
Sometime later, we got together, one of the senior gentlemen got the application forms from the BBMP office, after duly getting the forms filled, signed, attested and attached with the respective DD’s(2 nos) addressed to the Commissioner BBMP along with the 2%tax on stamp duty mentioned in your sale deed and the Khata charges of Rs.125 along with the latest tax paid receipt, we set out to hand it over to the Tappal (the clerk).
On seeing some 10 of us approach together, the clerk smelt the abnormal attitude. Thanks to all those people who have normalized Bribe giving as just another transactional obligation and see ‘exercising your basic right’ as activism! Stockholm syndrome perhaps!
It was around 12.30 in the noon 21July when we reached the BBMP office and it was not an unusual site at all to find the ARO and the center head missing in action leaving the place with a bunch of clerks who were determined to non-cooperate with us, however even we were equally determined to counter that noncooperation with absolute patience and insistence.
At first he said that Khatas are not being issued individually for apartments and that they would only issue in bulk as per the new circular. We then asked him to show the circular and he was quiet horrified when we insisted on seeing that circular and even looked it up online. There was no such circular. Since it was not pasted anywhere he realized he could not play around. Then he said your DD amounts may be wrong and asked us how we had concluded the respective amounts. He asked us to checkup and submit it at a later date, to which we said that the amounts were calculated as per the information provided by the BBMP office earlier and also the BBMP website and if there was any wrong it was for him to inspect and reject!
Next he said that we had to notarize the copy of the sale deed(first sheet of sale deed to be submitted where the name of owners appears) and also provide a copy of EC (Encumbrance Certificate). Although it was not mentioned anywhere in the Khata application or on the BBMP website asking for these documents, the clerk kept refusing to accept our applications without EC.. After haggling in raised voices for half an hour, he showed us some old applications submitted which had endorsed copies of notarized sale deeds(first sheet of sale deed) and EC.
EC is another document which says the property in question is free from any monetary and legal liabilities and it can be obtained from any registered authorities like Notaries. The Notary normally checks the sale deed and stamps his seal. A notarized copy of sale deed along with EC has to be submitted to the BBMP along with your latest tax paid receipts and duly filled Khata application. The Notarization is all about certifying, attesting and authenticating an instrument. In the past many dealings with sub registered offices and other such Government offices, I have got many deeds and documents attested by a Notary but till date I have not understood what the hell does the Notary authenticate from those very documents or copies that I have provided, upon which he blindly stamps and signs for a 50 or 100 depending on how well-dressed you are! In my opinion the concept of notarizing is another useless practice and all those Notaries should be thrown in the Arabian sea!
The next day we got the EC and the Notarization done together for Rs.300 per resident.
And on 24th July our applications were finally accepted with a pink receipt of acknowledgement given. Remember to file and frame this copy till you receive the Khata as this is your magic wand to Nirvana!
After a week’s time we visited the BBMP office again for a follow up, this time the clerk gave his number and asked one of us to contact him and said it was not really necessary for all of us to keep coming. He indicated that he had done his job and that we needed to follow up with the ARO and that the ARO was too busy. We met the ARO who was very rude and yet again told us that he could not Khatas individually and that we had not submitted the information of all the flats, flat nos, their built up area, owner names etc which we tabled and gave him the very next day. We also mailed the same to the ARO but there was no acknowledgement.
The following week when we visited him again, the ARO seemed to be in a good mood and was in conversation with some senior person just outside the office. We quickly approached him and he(ARO) gently promised that he would give the Khata in a week’s time.
After some 4days we called up the clerk and then began the story, he started demanding a bribe in the magnitude of the same amount our fellow residents had made. We indicated that we could not pay him so much and kept the loop open and told him that he had not even come for a site inspection, we were keen to get him for a site inspection first and certify that all documents submitted by us were in accordance to the requirements of the BBMP. Finally in the following days, he made a visit and again opened the talks for a bribe, to which we did not commit anything nor antagonized him.
The next time we called he indicated that he was willing for a negotiation but we told him that we could not pay him anything.
After this incident we had a group meeting and few in the group were going weak to somehow settle it off even if it meant shelling some small amount which I thought was what the delay tactics was all about – to yield us into the Bribe trap. I even thought I will go it alone if need be but then we held on to our original beliefs.
There was silence from all of us for one whole week and then we thought enough was enough and wrote to the higher ups. A written communication requesting and reminding them that a Khata had to ideally be issued in 24days from the time of submission of the application and that now more than 2months had passed and our DDs would lapse soon causing us the inconvenience of going through the procedure all over again. We sent a registered post to the Joint Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and the ARO of BBMP on behalf of all applicants together under one signature.
Almost after some 15day(Diwali holidays included) we got an acknowledgement by postcard from BBMP from the day of the letter. The clerk too called up but we somehow had missed the message. When we next visited the BBMP we were told that we could collect the Khata the following day. It was a pleasant shockJ but the next day 25 October we got our Khatas without having to pay any BRIBE in exactly 3months time!
One last line for those of them who say – people in a working system do not have the time to spare following up with this kind of activism: Each of us make time for our preset priorities and interests. if shaking a leg at the Zumba class is a priority for some, a few others may find solace in social causes. It is just a matter of how one prioritizes and plans to spend his or her time. And when people say they are busy with their work schedules and unable to make time to seek their right, it is always about their priorities and never about lack of time!