The practice of buying property in the name of someone other than the buyer with black money has been rampant in India, letting tax evaders park their undeclared income.
But Chief Minister Rao is the first to put a figure to the extent of the problem, 20 per cent of all land deals are benami, depriving states of valuable revenue.
As the first step, KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly called in the state, has ordered police to conduct raids on 141 land registration offices to identify the benami deals. By evening, the anti-corruption branch got down to the job. At least two sub-registrars were arrested and 72 of the 141 registration officers shunted out.
The decision came after a meeting to review a land scam in Cyberabad, the IT hub of the state capital Hyderabad. The scam involves the transfer of nearly 700 acres of government land -around 530 football fields - to private entities.
Government officials had avoided detection by issuing the certificates to the buyers but were careful not to log the change in ownership of the property in the centralised database.
During discussions at the meeting, it transpired that a similar tactic was being adopted by corrupt officials to keep benami land purchases under the radar.
It is not clear how the government arrived at the estimate that benami property accounted for 20 per cent of land deals.
But a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office acknowledged the size of the problem.
"The government got information that all the Benami transactions are not being uploaded by the officials in collusion with those registering the documents. The government came to know that there are about 20 per cent of such registrations," it said.
Special teams called flying squads had been set up by the police to carry out the raids. "The Flying Squads are going to raid the Registration offices," the statement said.