A screen grab of Digital India website.
A screen grab of Digital India website.

Govt nearly doubles budget for digitisation of land records

Scheduled to be completed in 2016 with a budget of Rs5,600 crore, the land records digitisation project will now conclude in 2021 at a projected cost of Rs11,000 crore

Mumbai: The government will nearly double the budget and extend the deadline for a programme to digitise land records as states struggle to survey land and property, large chunks of which have not been mapped in a century, a senior official said.

The national land record modernisation programme, launched in 2008, was aimed at surveying lands, upgrading records and establishing ownership. Scheduled to be completed in 2016 with a budget of Rs5,600 crore ($841 million), the project will now conclude in 2021 at a projected cost of Rs11,000 crore.

“It is a long process, as some of these lands have not been surveyed in a long time, some for 30 years, some for 100 years," said K.K. Phull, a consultant with the department of land records in New Delhi.

“Many states lack the means to survey lands, and for nearly all states this has not been a top priority so far, hence the delays," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The process includes mapping of land with aerial surveys, satellite imagery, drones, as well as physical markers. Existing land records are also verified and put online and linked to landowners.

The programme aims to provide clear titles of ownership that should result in government officials being able to monitor land more easily, speedier transactions, fewer disputes over ownership and less corruption in administration, Phull said.

Matters related to land and property make up about two thirds of all civil cases in the country, according to a recent study by Daksh, a legal advocacy group based in Bengaluru.

India has introduced several land laws in the past decade to give more rights to farmers and indigenous people. But the complex web of legislation has not always helped the most vulnerable, with the lack of clear title deeds also a challenge.

One of the main goals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign launched last year was the digitisation of land records.

States including Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh have completed the process to digitise land records, Phull said. Others including Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are scheduled to be done in a few months, he said.

In Maharashtra, about 270 million documents are being digitised, with surveys under way in several districts, a spokesman for the land records department said.

The move to extend the deadline and increase the budget for the programme is awaiting the cabinet’s approval, Phull said.

“Our attitude towards land records is to forget about them until there is a dispute or an emergency," Phull said.

“Digitising land records can have far-reaching benefits for the country. It is important we complete it on a priority basis," he said. Reuters

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