Land from time immemorial has been treated as a measure of wealth, status and power all over the world. In India, during the feudal rules people were awarded favours by the kings in form of titles of ownership for land holdings. Precisely because of this reason Land has also been the source of many bloody wars and disputes not only between the Nations, kings and Jamindaars who wanted to establish there supremacy over each other but also between common people as this was the only source of their livelihood. It has been cause of family rifts turning brothers into enemies. It has also led to disputes running through generations unresolved, attributed to lack of proper land management systems, poor record keeping, negligence on part of those who were supposed to be responsible for Land Management and also an inefficient judiciary.
Land has also served as a strong tool for manipulation and exploitation of the poor. It has also been a root cause of many a malpractice carried out by those who were rich and influential which results in an exorbitant loss of revenue to the exchequer each year, year by year. People have shown irrigated areas as non-irrigated, Fertile lands as Barren, curtailed the crop yields by declaring lesser hectarage of cultivated land. There are numerous instances where these perjuries are performed in cognizance with the Patwarees who form the lowest link in the chain of Revenue officials and are primarily responsible for the accuracy in cadastral database.
Even if we forget for a while all the problems that have occurred and resulted in corruption due to an inefficient system of Land Management there is another aspect to the whole scenario of Land Management. Almost any project that has to be executed requires a basic planning both at macro and micro level. To carry out this task one requires information, which is correct and available in time. Take an example of a National Highway to be constructed. The planners at the time of planning the alignment need to know the type of land the alignment would be passing through. Is it a high fertile, irrigated and cultivated private land or is land available, which is barren, or government holding where the cost of land acquisition would be minimal or null. At the time of acquiring the land what compensation needs to be given to each owner whose land is being acquired. The inventory needs to be created for maintaining the status of Land Acquisition and progress thereof.
Take another example for a command area development project where the distribution and drainage network system needs to be designed. Not only one requires information about the land ownership for land acquisition purpose but also one needs to carve out chaks and subchaks of 4-6 Hectares which are going to be irrigated as one single unit. For creating these units one has to keep a track of areas, ownership, crop being cultivated to ascertain the water needs of each holding and then for the entire subchack. Various permutations and combinations of the subchak geography are made and analyzed to determine the best and the most optimum way of utilizing the available water resources.
All the examples and facts stated above establish in no uncertain terms the importance of land and also the importance of the fact that there has to be an efficient system to manage it. The question: do we have such a system in place? The answer is self-evident. Certainly, we do not have an efficient Land Management System in place. We are still dependent on the age-old methods of creating and maintaining the Land records. This system of manual surveys, Cloth bound cadastral maps, non-uniform structures of record of rights, each state maintaining this database as a hard copy register created in their respective languages, lack of dedicated and qualified people who can maintain and update these records both in the record of rights as well as the cadastral maps, can not meet the objective of being an efficient one. There is a dynamic relationship between the holding, its owner, and the department responsible to keep track of transactions. The system for managing the land therefore also has to be a dynamic one.
Some such deficiencies, which have been a major cause of dysfunction of the system, are listed below:
- Cadastral maps and record of rights are not up-to-date and do not confirm to the ground realities.
- The upkeep of the records and the maps is a tedious task due to lack of will, qualified people and complexity of the problem.
- The non uniformity of Record of rights and this being in different regional languages results in a database which can not be used for planning and analysis.
- Lack of will to adopt newer technology.