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Bangalore: Some four months after the Karnataka government gave away the first property title deeds in Mysore and several months after the launch of a project that sought to survey and establish titles to property, the effort seems to be still-born, mainly because of political uncertainty in the state.

Property title cards, which the state calls Upor (urban property ownership records) cards, were supposed to be issued in Bangalore, the state’s biggest city and its capital, some two months ago, but things haven’t moved since, said two government officials, both of whom did not want to be identified.

Project shelved: Former Karnataka chief minister Sadananda Gowda.

The state hasn’t had a revenue minister since August last year, with the department being one of the portfolios that the chief minister chose to keep with himself.

The revenue department controls land titling and all subjects associated with civil land.

Titling refers to formalizing ownership of property. What currently passes for titles in most Indian states is actually a document that in effect registers a property transaction and not its ownership.

Providing clear land title is an optional reform under the Union government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Unclear titles often lead to violent conflicts and endless litigations.

The process of buying property in India is fraught with risk, primarily because the government stopped maintaining records of ownership when property taxes became a negligible source of revenue. In his 2012 budget speech, Gowda said the project would be initiated in 50 wards in Bangalore city by 2012-13.

The roll-out of the project in Bangalore has already been delayed by more than two months, the two government officials cited above said. One of the officials said land reform at this level had never really been a concern for the government.

“They felt a little unease. They have never attempted (titling) for 50 years," he said.

He said that a combination of two factors worked against the project.

One was the indifference of senior politicians and officers. The other was the fear among lower-level officials and people in city municipalities over illegal activity being uncovered.

The official referred to government estimates that nearly 600,000 of 1.8 million properties in Bangalore were encroached upon or illegal. That could have caused significant disruption in real estate developments, he said.

The second official confirmed that the project had been delayed, saying “a couple of" clearances were required. He said some 30,000 Upor cards had been issued in Mysore as part of the pilot project.

Some top developers in Bangalore were unaware of the government’s plan to issue Upor cards, but said such a move would benefit buyers.

“The government ultimately has all the knowledge about whether it is an inherited land or a grant land or a government land, which is the right kind of boundary. They are the repository of everything, as far as land is concerned. If the government starts saying that the land is owned by such and such at this point of time, definitely it helps," said J.C. Sharma, vice-chairman and managing director of Sobha Developers Ltd.

A similar initiative in Rajasthan got stuck after a Congress administration took over from one run by the BJP.

Unlike Rajasthan, though, which first attempted to put in place the legal framework for land titling, Karnataka said the existing act allowed for presumptive titling. While the title remains presumed, the fact that it is accompanied by a government-mandated survey makes property purchases more risk-free.

Mint had first reported in December that the state was working towards offering the first Upor in Mysore, Shimoga, Mangalore and Bellary districts.

In May, Mysore became one of the first cities in India to provide some sort of state guarantee to titles.

Shamsheer Yousaf contributed to this story.

rahul.c@livemint.com

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