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Cadastral surveys in India: A critique

Prof. Prabhakar Mishra
Kampsax India Ltd.
809, Phase V, Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon 122016, Haryana
Tele: 0124-6348259/60/61/62

Introductory Remarks
Cadastral surveys are a class by themselves and quite different from any ther concept of large scale surveys as a professional surveyor would normally experience. Cadastral surveys are important because invariabl these surveys are linked with the ownership of the property. In fact, it is through these surveys that the important link between man and the land is established. The depiction of legal and topographical aspects including the precise area of the land becomes more intense if the same surveys pertain to the urban/town properties.

The process of Cadastral Surveys for which the modern technology is always taken advantage of to increase the productivity, takes much lower priority in comparison to the legal aspects which are connected with the record of rights, khasra, khatauni etc. The professional revenue - oriented person in the District, therefore, believes that "We are doing things right but not the right things" Peter Drucker Management Guru

A revenue person would also like to see marked and substantial progress on the legal side of the Cadastral surveys on the assumption that Cadastral Surveys are 10% mapping and 90% records generation.

Importance of Cadastral Surveys due to fast development activities out of date revenue records/maps
The indifferent (out of date, in many cases inaccurate) surveys and cadastral records are the major bottlenecks in the acquisition of land. Town Planners, Highway Planners/Engineers and other agencies connected with the acquisition of land have concluded that one of the major factors for delay in the execution of a land related project is the lack of information about the land.

The surveys done by the modern methods of photogrammetry, GPS and Total stations etc. have to be joined to the property which must legally be identified on the revenue map, the legal document of the Northern and Central States or the Field Measurement Book which is the legal document of the Southern States. The joining of the modern surveys with the old revenue maps is the 'Achillies heal' of the whole process. An attempt towards solving this problem is mentioned elsewhere in this paper.

Historical Background
Revenue surveys were initiated by East India Company towards the end of 18th Century primarily to establish the 'domain of their influence' through the collection of revenue from the estates. These estates were scattered as such only village boundaries were established by traverse method of surveying. The inside details of properties were left to local surveys. Survey of India as a Dept. of Govt. of India established in 1767, was fully involved in the process till 1904.

Following the recommendation of the 1904 Committee of Govt. of India, the cadastral surveys were delegated (in my opinion, abdicated!) to the States. The States evolved their own legal system of revenue surveys. The Northern States of U.P., M.P., Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab had 'graphical output' of surveys as the legal document whereas the Southern states recognised Field Measurement Book (FMB) as the legal document. There was very little input from Survey of India. The result was that survey of India took to first aerial survey in Malda district of Bengal which was carried out in 1929 to produce revenue maps on 16 inches to 1 mile scale. But no serious attempt was made to transfer the technology to the States.Then again during 1939-1945 war Survey of India adopted air-survey methods and later photogrammertry in 1954. The situation regarding the technology in the States remained the same as was available in 1904.

Later, in 1964, the first State Cadastral Surveys Conference was held in Mussoorie which was motivated by the concept that State Dept of Settlement Surveys and Land Records should exchange ideas on the subject to provide technical solutions to, for example, town surveys etc. The conferences have been regularly held but the progress has been rather slow in substance. The author while serving Survey of India organised a Demonstration Seminar for the technology of Aerial Photography, Photogrammetry, Photo rectification and Records management etc. in 1973. The Govt. of India (Ministry of Rural Development) has now taken up computerization of records and introduction of other relevant technologies in fairly enthusiastic manner. This has been motivated, it is felt, due to the success of Madhya Pradesh in utilizing the aerial photography and rectification process for substituting their plane-table (graphical records), improving their record keeping systems and making the whole system farmer - friendly. This process of technology-transfer from Indian Institute of Remote sensing to the Commissioner of Land Records, Gwalior has been a successful example of transfer of technology.

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