The server is not working
The 7 by 12 document fiasco in rural India
Maharashtra has gone digital, but farmers in the state are still walking towards Tehsil offices for 7 by 12 document like the good old days when the Talathi (local revenue staff) had the solemn power to issue the crucial land ownership document which used to be handwritten on paper and attested with a stamp.
The 7/12 document is the receipt, extensively used by farmers for loan agreements and to avail other government facilities.
“I need to submit documents to the bank for a new crop loan application. The Maha e-Seva Kendra is unable to give me 7 by 12 and I’m being told that the reason is a server failure. The alternative is to get it from the Talathi office, who is busy throughout the day and usually unavailable for all who need the same document.” Says, Ishwar Wahwal, a farmer from Satona in Partur Tehsil of Jalna district. Narrating his anxiety, he says, “Banks give a limited deadline to submit relevant documents. If I could not submit the same, there will be a delay in processing my crop loan application and ultimately the sowing of this season.”
The Maha e-Seva Kendra are franchisee firms owned by private players approved by the state government to issue 7 by 12 and other certificates through the Mahaonline Service Portal. But they were discontinued and restricted from issuing the land record document soon after the government's move to make digitally signed 7 by 12 online, easy to access for anyone and open to be used for official purposes.
On 1st of May this year, the government of Maharashtra claimed to become the first state to issue 7 by 12 online and accept a digital signature on it as valid. Anyone who owns property in Maharashtra could download the 7 by 12 from the state government’s Mahabhulekh and Aaple Sarkar portal. There was no need to get it attested, it being already a digitally signed document. The government also had made the announcement on the same day that eight lakh 7 by 12 receipts come with a digital sign and the aim is to complete the digitisation of all 2.5 crore receipts by August 1 this year.
Soon after the decision, the state did away from this facility offering free of cost service to people. The dismissal of this facility has created the chaos on the ground especially in a time when farmers need this crucial land ownership document for new crop loan application.
“The reason that the government stopped digitally signed 7 by 12 may be due to the revenue loss it suffered as all the services were open and free of cost. Even today it is available on the same portal, but it does not carry a digital signature anymore. Unless it is attested by the Talathi, it is no longer valid for official purpose.” Says Sachin Ambhure, who offers online services to Customers at his shop near the Partur Tehsil office.
Experiencing the dilemma of farmers visiting his shop everyday, Ambhure says, “When they don’t get the 7 by 12 at the Maha e-Seva Kendra, they come to us. What we can offer them is just a print out of the document available on the Mahabhulekh portal but ultimately it needs to get an attestation from the Talathi to make it a valid document and submit to the bank. It takes same efforts for them either to get this print attested from the Talathi or to get a 7 by 12 from the Talathi himself.”
“Bank officials don’t entertain our excuses. They want the 7 by 12 either issued by Maha e-Seva Kendra or downloaded from Mahabhulekh and attested by the Talathi or the document issued by the Talathi himself. All options are equally hard to fulfill.” says Vitthal Solanke, a young farmer from Karhala village. Commenting on the unavailability of the Talathi, he says, “It is not an easy job to find this gentleman. Technically our village is Saja, it means he should be present in our village regularly and issue the 7 by 12 but it has not happened. We need to go Tehsil and find him.” says Solanke.
Recently the Maha e-Seva Kendras have been allowed to issue the 7 by 12 after the government decided to withdraw the move offering digitally signed land ownership documents without any cost. Now the Maha e-Seva Kendras can issue a document which has the digital signature. But technical failure is obstructing them from doing the same. What farmers are told most of the time by these facility centres is the standard template - The server is not working.
Dnyaneshwar Udhan is the owner of a Maha e-Seva Kendra at Gansawangi Tehsil. He is a part of the process of running his centre through many changes the government has been making time to time. He says “There are crucial changes made by the government. One was to restrict the Maha E-Seva Kendras from issuing 7 by 12 and few other documents. On 1st of may, 7 by 12 was made free and open to all. Anyone could get it on Mahabhumi Abhilekh. It was digitally signed. There were bumper downloads and later the government withdrew the decision."
Narrating the whole episode he explains, “Now again the ball has been thrown in our court. We can issue digitally signed 7 by 12 but what about the server which is rarely functions properly. Now I have the login, internet, the farmer standing before me who is eager to get a 7 by 12 and submit to the bank,” Udhan says, adding, “But there is only message on screen of server failure. If even today farmers are asked to visit the Talathi, what is use of the online Seva.”
Other Maha e-Seva Kendra operators like Dnyaneshwar Udhan are facing similar problems. The servers often work only at midnight and sometimes early in the morning.
When contacted, Khunte, who works as the district coordinator for the Jalna district at Mahaonline, a joint venture between Tata Consultancy Services and the government of Maharashtra offering internet based services to citizens. He said, “The issue Maha e-Seva Kendras are facing is not at our end. We are just a platform when it comes issuing the 7 by 12. We just work on the link provided by the government. If it has an issue, it reflects in the service provided at Mahaonline."
Talking about the technical details he says, “We have no role to play here. The data is under the purview of the settlement commissioner and the director of land records, Pune. Earlier there used to be dedicated servers at every district.”
Bank officials' are firm on their decisions to accept the 7 by 12 only if issued by Talathis or Tehsil office. The crowd of farmers to know the status of their last loan waiver and apply for a new crop loan is overwhelming.
Branch Manager at the Ashti Dhotar Joda branch of the Bank of Maharashtra, defends his side. “We have received instructions from above to accept only attested 7 by 12 and other relevant documents. If there are problems for farmers in getting attested from the Talathi, given time we can discuss the issue.”
In this whole episode, there are farmers who have been asked to submit the documents to banks within a deadline or miss the chance to get a crop loan.
The long queue of farmers have been waiting in Ghanasawangi since early morning waiting their turn to get the 7 by 12 from the Maha e-Seva Kendra. They are hopeful that suddenly the machine will start working and they will get it.
The 7/12 extract is not merely a document, it is part of the land ownership register maintained by the state’s revenue department. The plot’s survey number, the name of the owner, its cultivator, the crop most often sown, the type of cultivation, transfer of ownership, details of previous loan are important things mentioned on it. It establishes a clear title and ownership. An essential document, widely used for all rural and semi-rural land deals and transactions throughout the year.
But for a farmer right now, the 7 by 12 is something which can bring him money in his hands to sow in the season and bring food and prosperity to the table.