In the light of the recent land scam case that has surfaced against retired IAS officer GS Sandhu, who allegedly transferred a society deed of a land measuring 40,000 square yards to a builder against norms in 2011 when he was additional chief secretary, urban development and housing. The Land Transformation Management System espoused by the Modi government in the Union Budget 2016-17 is an important step, indeed, to tackle the nuisance of illegal land acquisition cases.
Land being the costliest asset in realty has often been at the epicentre of land fights, property crimes and frauds. Way back in 1988, the central government then sponsored the Computerisation of Land Records (CoLR) scheme to tackle the recurring problems owing to inadequate land records system.
Again in 2008-09, an attempt was made by launching the ambitious National Land Records Modernisation Programme. Under this programme, land record computerisation and digitisation, a responsibility of the states, was supposed to cover all 620 districts of the country by 2017 at the close of the 12th Plan. The scheme did not see much headway as it proved to be a challenging one from the cost perspective.
More recently, in the Budget 2016, the digitisation of land records has been relaunched under the National Land Records Modernisation Programme. It is said modernisation of management of land records will minimise the scope of land disputes, and enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system. The system is due to be implemented from 1 April, 2016. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 150 crore for the digitisation of national land records, a necessary step, which was why the programme was backfiring in the past.
Discrepancies prevalent earlier
In the absence of any effective land records maintenance system, one of the biggest challenges that gripped India was about land ownership issue. Here, one was only presumed to be an owner and not a conclusive owner of land unless proved otherwise. Apart from this, inaccurate physical records and security issues of sharing land records publicly were some areas of concern.
The government too, faced difficulties. Many a times, land acquisition for development projects were done but the 7/12 land extract (an extract from the land register maintained by the revenue department) did not reflect these changes. Thus, the land acquired was fraudulently sold to another person by taking advantage of this loophole. In some cases, people had mortgaged acquired properties for obtaining bank loans, stated a revenue official.
Land transformation management system
The main components of the programme are: computerisation of all land records including mutations, digitisation of maps and integration of textual and spatial data, survey/re-survey and updation of all survey and settlement records including creation of original cadastral records wherever necessary, computerisation of registration and its integration with the land records maintenance system, development of core Geospatial Information System (GIS) and capacity building.
In the digitisation process, the tehsildars would first compile land data. Complete details of a parcel of land, from the original owner, period of ownership, year of purchase to number of transactions to the current status of land, the revenue officials need to collect all these details and take an image of the land (property). For records on land availability, a fresh survey of lands would be conducted and every parcel of land counted and details noted. After this, digitisation process begins. Online data would be compared with the manual data to rule out any errors. Digitisation of land records would ensure requisite details - map of the land, mutation, photo ID, etc. – a step towards conclusive ownership.
At the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all land records now will be integrated with Aadhaar, a step taken to monitor the successful implementation of crop insurance scheme. A bill recently passed in Parliament has made Aadhaar mandatory for residents to avail themselves of any public service.
A realty player Brotin Banerjee, Managing Director, Tata Housing, remarked: “Digitisation of land records will help in more transparent market-based pricing.”
“Having a clear picture of people’s properties mapped, registered and valued will lead to good planning. It will eliminate conflicting land right claims to the land or over compensation for the land in question being acquired,” stated Prashant Pillai, Country Head-Tax and Accounting business, Thomson Reuters, in an article in Geospatial World.
Two states that were quick to start digitisation of land records under the National Land Record Modernisation Programme have been Maharashtra and Telangana. Online access of land details can make the task of state governments easier.
How the social-economic realities of contemporary India will transform in the framework of land reforms.
Clarity on land ownership would also reveal the quantum of land possessed by a person. Most importantly, people would be able to purchase land, give deeds, and do mutation entry and all kinds of land transactions fearlessly at the press of a button.
Online registration will delete any confusion about which land has been earmarked as government land. The government and revenue officials would have the exact details of land available at hand post digitisation. The government land would be safe from encroachers. Recently, Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) decided to digitise the land records pertaining to 7,757 acres of land in the city just to protect the prime land not utilised which is located in the outskirts of the city.
Status of a particular land would be available online. Records pertaining to land involved in court cases would also be available digitally. Currently, a number of cases pertaining to land issues are pending before different courts including Supreme Court and High Courts.
Every farmer's land would be linked to the Aadhar number after verification. Division of land could happen accurately on digital maps leading to lesser land-related conflicts. Inheritance of land would be made easy. And property crimes would automatically reduce.
People would no longer need to visit revenue officials or talathis after digitisation mission is through. Also, role of patwaris who carried maps to sites would end with the onset of digital maps. Through survey number, people would be able to see details of any particular land online. People would also be able to view their 7/12 extract (an extract from the land register maintained by the revenue department) online.
A significant move that will be brought forth through digitisation of land records is transparency which will make it difficult for people to evade property tax. Land details availability could empower the government to realise its industrialisation and smart cities mission.
The digitisation of land records, apart from providing conclusive titles to land owners and speeding up the process of land acquisition, also could lead to a build up of local revenues through improved property tax billing and collection.