New Delhi: After getting the new land acquisition law through Parliament, the rural development ministry is now nudging states to modernize land records that will help owners get fair compensation if their land is taken over.

A road map prepared by the ministry, and reviewed by Mint, aims to triple the number of states that have modernized land records by 2016. Currently, only four of India’s 28 states—Tripura, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka—are in advanced stages of modernizing such records. This includes land surveys, updating of survey and settlement records, computerization of land records and registration, modernizing record rooms and imparting training to personnel in charge.

Modernization of records would ensure automatic mutation and facilitate a conclusive titling system to minimize land and property disputes, the review prepared by the ministry said.

Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are placed in the second category among states that have done fairly well in modernizing land records. The laggards include Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

In a statement to Parliament last year, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, “India is one of the few countries in the world where the record of rights on land is presumptive; it is not conclusive unlike many other countries. We are presumed to be owners of land unless proved otherwise. That is why we have lots of disputes and lots of problems in land acquisition."

Ramesh had also said the government was aggressively moving towards conclusive titles. “But before we do that, we need to update our land records," he said. “We need to make them online and we must ensure that survey of the land records is up-to-date."

The new land law seeks to provide fair compensation to owners and tenants for the land acquired from them by private companies or the government. Compensation equivalent to twice the price of the property will be paid to the owners or heirs in urban areas, the law says. In rural areas, compensation will be four times the original price.

“Modernizing records, particularly of titles, will help establish ownership and the award of compensation to the right people," a rural development ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

In a related development, in identical letters to 11 cabinet colleagues dated 8 October that were reviewed by Mint, Ramesh requested amendments to 13 laws to bring them on par with the new law in terms of compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation. At present, land can be acquired by a state under these laws without the consent of owners and whose provisions deem lesser compensation than what is stated in the new law. The laws that need to be amended include the national highways law, the railways law, the electricity law the atomic energy law, the petroleum and minerals pipelines law and the mines law.

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