Computerisation of land records in India
Joint Secretary (Land Reforms),
Ministry of Rural Development,
Department of Land Resources, Government of India.
D. K. Bhalla
Private Secretary to the Ministry of State,
Dept. of Women & Child Development
Government of India, Shastri Bhawan
The history of land records is as old as the Indian civilisation. Maintenance of these records has gone through a process of evolution as it passed through various administrative systems and socio-economic compulsions. Without going into details, it can be safely stated that the present system of preparing and maintaining land records originated from the Moghul period and reached its scientific form during the British rule. All the subsequent efforts are largely revisional with de novo preparations combined by newly accredited areas on the basis of existing laws and rules. Land records are of great importance to contemporary socio-economic imperatives and their revision and updating are necessitated for capturing the essentials of changes in social dynamics.
The system of correction and updating of land records is very elaborate. Maps depicting land parcels (cadastral maps) are required to be updated every 30 years through the process of survey and settlement operations. Most states have not done any survey or settlement operations after independence. As a consequence, updation of records has suffered and they no longer represent the ground realities relating to ownership and possession. The situation has been well recognised at various forums at different points of time. In December 1988, the Conference of Revenue Secretaries of States took cognisance of the poor state of land records and recommended immediate action. Even the First Plan has taken note of this fact and its possible consequences. In a primarily agrarian economy with a distorted social structure, it has serious implication in terms of its impact on the execution of all welfare/economy development activities.
Initiatives during Five Year Plans
Since the First Plan, planners have been advocating proper maintenance of land records as the basis for good administration, aimed at social justice through better implementation of rural development programmes. This was reiterated in the Second and Third Plans. The Sixth Plan had envisaged the completion and updation of land records from 1980 to 1985. To quote the Sixth Plan document, "Systematic programmes would be taken up for compilation/updating of land records for completion within a period of five years, i.e 1980 - 1985. In states, where the backlog is heavy, aerial survey techniques may be employed for expeditious survey operations. Each cultivator would be given a passbook indicating his status/title to description of the land viz. area, cess, etc. along with a copy of khasra/map and other details that are considered necessary. Appropriate provision will be made in revenue laws to confer legal status on these documents as proof of title and rights in land". Similarly, the Seventh Plan document also emphasised the need for updated and accurate land records. According to the Seventh Plan document, "Land records form the base for all land reform measures and, therefore, regular periodic updating of land records is essential in all states. This will neccessarily have to include a scientific survey of unmeasured land and recoding of rights of tenants and share-croppers which have remained unrecorded up till now".
The Eight Plan (1992-1997) and the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) have also envisaged the fulfilment of all five-year principles of National Land Reform Policies, that is, the abolition of inter- mediaries, tenancy reforms with security to actual cultivators, redistribution of ceiling, surplus land, consolidation of holdings and updating of land records. The general theme underlying the content of all Plan documents has emphasised that land is an asset, which provides the primary and secondary needs of the people. Most of the problems of the people in the villages are due to land related issues. Planning and maintaining land records is a pre-requisite before any land reform policies can be successfully implemented. To achieve this, latest information technology is a must for quicker storing, processing and retrieving of information database in land records. Therefore, computerisation of land records is an essential step to achieve all these goals especially if we have to realise the goal of decentralised planning and administration as envisaged in the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India.