From the ‘Best Tehsildar’ in Telangana two years ago, young V Lavanya has fallen from grace when television images of seizure of massive amount of cash and gold jewellery during a raid on her residence evoked public outrage on Thursday (July 11).
Lavanya, a revenue officer of Ranga Reddy district, was arrested after sleuths of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) raided her home at Hayatnagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad and recovered ₹93.5 lakh in cash and 400 grams gold.
“Some important documents related to land deals were also seized and the investigation is underway,” the ACB deputy director Ramana Reddy said.
The raids were ordered after her junior colleague Anantaiah was caught red-handed in a sting operation accepting ₹4 lakh bribe from a farmer for correcting land records.
The farmer was allegedly told to pay ₹8 lakh, of which ₹5 lakh was meant to be Lavanya’s “share” and ₹3 lakh for the junior revenue officer. The farmer, Bhaskar had earlier paid Anantaiah ₹30,000 for obtaining his land record passbook. When he was asked to cough up ₹8 lakh more for making online corrections, he approached the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
In a sting operation, the ACB recorded the ‘transaction’ in which Anantaiah took ₹4 lakh from the farmer and informed his superior officer soon after. The ACB sleuths then stepped in and confronted Lavanya about the deal.
Initially, the woman tehsildar denied any role in the deal. However, following further questioning, she confessed to accepting the bribe.
Lavanya was arrested on charges of possessing wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income and was sent to jail.
ACB investigators also found nine pattadar (land record) passbooks in her car and documents linked to some 45 private properties. Police suspect that she may have been holding farmers’ land record passbooks and demanding bribes in return.
She may have forced her subordinates to resort to malpractices in updating land records, police said, adding there have been instances of deletion of names of rightful owners from land records so that revenue staff could make money by demanding bribes from the land owners to correct records.
Video goes viral
Following the officer’s arrest, an old video, showing a farmer falling at her feet and pleading with her to return the land record passbook, has gone viral on social media.
The farmer seen in the video was identified as Narsimulu. He was seen complaining about harassment by revenue officials and requesting that his land records be corrected. The video was apparently shot with the intention of highlighting the plight of farmers.
In March this year, a farmer had posted a video on social media addressed to Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao complaining about the harassment he was facing from revenue department officials. The Chief Minister had intervened and directed the officials to address his grievance.