September 2018
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[op-ed snap] Modernizing land records in India


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: DILRMP scheme and other measures needed for land records modernisation


Land Records Modernisation Programme

  1. A land title is a document that helps determine land ownership
  2. The Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP)—the erstwhile National Land Records Modernisation Programme—seeks to improve the quality of land records in the country, make them more accessible, and move towards government-guaranteed titles
  3. This will be achieved through complete computerization of the property registration process and digitization of all land records
  4. The scheme completed a decade in operation in August this year

Land ownership still not clear

  1. The scheme so far has looked at the digitization of land records only
  2. It has not addressed issues around land ownership
  3. It is well known that land records in India are unclear and do not guarantee ownership

Reasons for non-availability of ownership data

  • In India, we have a system of registered sale deeds and not land titles
  1. The Transfer of Property Act, 1882, provides that the right to an immovable property (or land) can be transferred or sold only by a registered document
  2. These documents are registered under the Registration Act, 1908. Therefore, the transaction gets registered, and not the land title
  3. This implies that even bona fide property transactions may not always guarantee ownership, as earlier transactions could be challenged
  • Land ownership is established through multiple documents maintained by different departments, making it cumbersome to access them
  1. For example, sale deeds are stored in the registration department, maps are stored in the survey department, and property tax receipts are with the revenue department
  2. These departments work in silos and do not update the data in a timely manner, which results in discrepancies
  3. One has to go back to several years of documentation to find any ownership claims on a piece of property, which causes delays
  • The cost of registering property is high and, hence, people avoid registering transactions
  1. While registering a sale deed, the buyer has to pay a stamp duty along with the registration fee
  2. In India, stamp duty rates across states vary between 4% and 10%, compared to 1% and 4% in other countries
  3. The registration fee is an additional 0.5% to 2%, on an average
  • Under the Registration Act, 1908, registration of property is not mandatory for transactions such as the acquisition of land by the government, property leased for less than one year, and heirship partitions
  1. Due to this several property divisions are not recorded and, hence, do not correctly reflect the ownership of the property
  2. This often leads to litigation related to rightful ownership

What do unclear land titles lead to?

  1. In rural areas, small and marginal farmers, who may not hold formal land titles, are unable to access institutionalized credit
  2. In urban areas, disputed land titles lead to lack of transparency in real estate transactions
  3. Any infrastructure created on land that is not encumbrance-free can be potentially challenged in the future, making such investments risky

Need of clear land titles 

  1. Under the Smart Cities and AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation ) missions, cities are trying to raise their own revenue through property taxes and land-based financing
  2. This necessitates the importance of providing a system of clear land titles

Proposed measures

  1. Conclusive titling has been proposed to address issues with unclear land titles
  2. In this system, the government provides guaranteed titles and compensation in case of any ownership disputes
  3. This will require several changes in existing laws that govern registration and transfer of land
  4. A system of registered property titles will have to be developed as the primary evidence of ownership
  5. All existing land records will have to be updated to ensure that they are free of any encumbrance
  6. Information on land records, which is currently spread across multiple departments, will have to be consolidated

Way Forward

  1. Unclear land titles impede development on several fronts
  2. The DILRMP aims to move towards conclusive titling but various other issues need to addressed in order to achieve that
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] Solutions beyond farm loan waivers


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Alternatives to farm loan waivers


Study on farm loan waiver coverage

  1. A new research commissioned by Tata Trusts and Copenhagen Consensus for the India Consensus project  shows that loan waivers are extremely expensive while having a limited impact
  2. Other policies could help many more farmers for every rupee spent

Status of loan availability to farmers

  1. Only 15% of the marginal farmers (with less than 2 hectares of landholding) have access to formal credit
  2. Loan waiver schemes typically cater to farmers who have availed of formal loans
  3. Previous waivers have led to banks reducing credit outlay for small farmers during their next loan cycle, thereby diminishing their chances of getting formal loans
  4. With the small farmers receiving less money from banks, this incremental loan is actually made available for the big farmers who use it to buy farm equipment such as tractors and combine harvesters
  5. Loan waivers actually do harm to the small farmers, as with less credit outlay from the formal sector, the small farmers increasingly have to depend upon the informal sector

Usage of loan waiver amount

  1. Studies also point out small farmers use money saved from loan waiver for consumption activities and not to augment investment to increase agricultural productivity
  2. This results in lower agricultural produce for small farmers during next loan cycles

Alternate interventions to reduce loan waivers

The government can spend money on

  • Building more canals and warehouses
  1. It makes economic sense to build more warehouses and storage facilities
  2. This will reduce waste of perishable fruits, vegetables and milk that command a higher market price than staple crops
  3. Nearly 20% of India’s fresh produce is wasted because of storage problems
  4. Most small farmers do not risk growing perishable crops and because of the lack of adequate storage facilities, often sell their output forward to the village-level aggregators (arthiya) from whom they typically take loans for growing crops at a higher rate
  • On rural electrification
  1. This will help farmers with more equipment and irrigation facilities
  • To operate more e-markets
  1. Regulated markets have problems associated with lower market size, lack of price discovery because of buyer cartelization, and lack of information related to product standards
  2. The research suggests that e-markets could result in better prices
  3. Farmers would realize better prices with reduced information asymmetry and direct market access

Way Forward

  1. Last year’s farmer protests highlighted the extent of India’s nationwide agrarian distress
  2. Farmer distress requires a serious response
  3. The government should spend each additional rupee to alleviate farm distress in a way where the impact is more, with a higher benefit-to-cost ratio
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] The problems with India’s land market distortions


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Land distortions in India & ways to reduce them


Land misallocation and scarcity

  1. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but its growth potential has been compromised by resource misallocation, especially when it comes to land
  2. India is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world
  3. The demand for land has accelerated with the increase in the pace of industrialization and urbanization

Effect of land distortion

  1. Firms use three factors of production—labour, land and capital—to produce output
  2. Conventional wisdom has focused on the labour market as being the most distorted in India
  3. Distortions in land markets are much bigger than those in labour markets
  4. An increase in the misallocation of all factors is associated with a huge decrease in output per worker in the manufacturing sector
  5. Most of this decline originates from the misallocation of land and buildings
  6. Distorted land markets are a breeding ground for crony capitalism and political subsidies

Inteconnection between land and capital allocation

  1. Land misallocation does have repercussions on capital allocation through financial markets
  2. How? Most bank loans require some form of collateral to guarantee the loan
  3. The land is simply the best form of collateral due to its immobility (i.e. the debtor can’t run off with land)

Increasing land revenue

  1. In most municipal corporations in India, property tax contributes less than 20% of municipal revenue
  2. In most major cities, nearly 50% of the properties do not pay any tax
  3. There are bigger growth benefits that can be derived from shifting the policy focus from reducing land “regulatory tax” to increasing land revenue tax
  4. It is estimated that non-linear and progressive property and land taxes could almost quadruple revenue to 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) from currently 0.15–0.2%
  5. This will enable more efficient firms to grow faster and increase the budgetary revenue to maximize finance for development, and additional revenues needed for investments in infrastructure, urbanization, housing, and social programmes

Way Forward

  1. India is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The richest 1% in India own 53% of wealth compared to the richest 1% in the US who own 37.3% of the wealth
  2. Reducing land market distortions is a key step towards making growth more inclusive and achieving double-digit growth
Land Reforms

Govt plans geo-tagging to crackdown on shell companies


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security| Money Laundering

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shell companies, MCA21

Mains level: Issues associated with Shell companies and government action against them.


Geo-tagging of Companies

  1. Too many transactions in the same premises is the most noticed trend in investigations of shell companies.
  2. Hence Companies may soon have to geo-tag their registered offices in the statutory filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).

Benefits of Geo-tagging

  1. Geo-tagging will help in identifying clusters of companies with the same address.
  2. The ministry seeks to prevent abuse of the corporate structure by companies that inflate costs by issuing fake invoices and laundering unaccounted wealth in the form of loans or equity through bogus transactions.
  3. The coordinates of the registered premises will act as a key input for mining data in the ministry’s IT infrastructure, called MCA21.
  4. This will zero-in the companies with a common address, common contact numbers, common directors and sudden and unexpected changes in revenue, etc. that may warrant a closer look into their affairs.
  5. The idea is to seek the coordinates of the registered office at the time of incorporation in the case of new companies and at the time of filing annual returns in the case of existing ones.

Demonetization Impact

  1. After the November 2016 demonetization of high-value currency notes, the government combed through records to identify dormant companies and those that were used to launder money.
  2. In a clean-up exercise in 2017-18, the government struck off more than 226,000 such shell companies from the records for not filing annual returns for two or more years.
  3. Now, investigations are on into the real ownership of 68 companies that deposited ₹ 25 crore or more after demonetization, which the authorities have found suspicious.

Way Forward

  1. Having a common address alone does not point to wrongdoing.
  2. It is a practice among professional services companies such as law firms and audit firms to work from a large, common infrastructure.
  3. Geo-tagging will certainly help in identifying such clusters, but one has to keep in mind that some start-ups, too, opt to work in clusters.
  4. Having a common address is not illegal.
NPA Crisis

Ocean Cleanup team heads to the Pacific


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Photodegradation

Mains level: Ocean Cleanup Project and its strategy


The Ocean Cleanup Project

  1. A supply ship towing a long floating boom designed to clean ocean plastic has set sail from San Francisco for a test run ahead of a trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  2. The ambitious project by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit group, hopes to clean up half of the garbage patch within five years once all systems are deployed.
  3. The supply vessel was towing a 600 meter-long boom device dubbed System 001, designed to contain floating ocean plastic so it can be scooped up and recycled.
  4. The system includes a tapered three-meter skirt to catch plastic floating just below the surface.
  5. The main mission is to show that it works, and hopefully then in a few months from now, the first plastics will arrive back into port, which means that it becomes proven technology.

About Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  1. The patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988.
  2. The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative pelagic concentrations of plastic, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
  3. It consists primarily of an increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.
  4. The patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulates suspended in the upper water column.

Risk of Photo Degradation

  1. As a result, it is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water.
  2. The photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level.
  3. Some plastics decompose within a year of entering the water, leaching potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs, and derivatives of polystyrene.
  4. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface.
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Bengaluru airport set to use face recognition as ‘boarding pass’


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Voice Box System

Mains level: Uses of enhanced biometric identification



Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru is set to become the first airport in Asia next year to use face recognition as the boarding procedure for passengers to board flights and move across different sections of the airport.

Implementation details

  1. Vision Box, a Portuguese software firm, signed an agreement to this effect to introduce face recognition technology at the airport from 2019.
  2. Voice Box, according to its website, showcased the face recognition-based passage system for the first time for Lufthansa which used a biometric boarding procedure instead of boarding passes.
  3. The first implementation will be completed in the first quarter of 2019, with Jet Airways, Air Asia and SpiceJet passengers as first users.

Importance of the Project

  1. The goal of the programme is to simplify the journey by making it paperless from registration to boarding.
  2. Biometric technology will identify passengers by their face as they move across the airport, avoiding stops and the repeated presentation of boarding passes, passports or other physical identity documents.
  3. This is the first end-to-end face recognition-based walk through experience in Asia and the largest in the world.
  4. It is also one of the most significant steps towards the Digital India campaign endorsed by the Government.
Digital India Initiatives

Elusive snow leopard spotted in Himachal wildlife sanctuary


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lippa-Asra WLS, IUCN conservation status of the specie

Mains level: Habitat Change of Snow Leopard



A snow leopard was spotted at a height of about 4,000 metres in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

Why is the spotting Important?

  1. It was only last year that the snow leopard improved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ in terms of conservation status.
  2. The recent findings have ascertained that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.
  3. During the survey, two brown bears were snapped through another camera-trap placed inside the sanctuary at an altitude of about 3200m.

Conservation of Snow Leopard in India

  1. Project Snow Leopard was launched in 2009 for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes.
  2. It aims at promoting a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
  3. Snow leopards are given the same protection as the tiger, listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – the highest protection afforded to a species.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Animals in Wrong Role


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Various Permissions

Mains level: Protection of Animals rights


Concern on use of animal s for entertainment purposes

  1. Union WCD Minister has concerned the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
  2. The Minister listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers.

Preventing Cruelty to Animals

  1. It was alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected.
  2. It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals.
  3. The letter cites an instance of approval given for a scene showing animal sacrifice, which is against the Supreme Court’s orders.

Depiction of Animals

  1. While tigers, monkeys, lions, bears, panthers (including leopards) are banned from being exhibited under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the government body has allowed their use on several occasions.
  2. All Indian snakes and birds except the crow are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and any certification for performance or exhibition is only possible after permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the relevant State.


Animal Welfare Board of India

  1. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana state, is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  2. It was previously based at Chennai
  3. It was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  4. Well-known humanitarian Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

[pib] INDO-MONGOLIA joint exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Nomadic Elephant

Mains level: India-Mongolia Strategic Relations


Exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018

  1. Indo-Mongolia joint exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018 has commenced at Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) Five Hills Training Area, Ullanbaatar.
  2. The 12 days long joint exercise is an annual, bilateral exercise since 2006 which is designed to strengthen the partnership between Indian Army and Mongolian Armed Forces.
  3. The exercise will see them improve their tactical and technical skills in joint counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations in rural and urban scenario under United Nations mandate.

Details of the Exercise

  1. The Indian contingent is represented by a contingent of 17 PUNJAB Regiment while the Mongolian contingent is represented by Unit 084 of the Mongolian Armed Forces.
  2. During the exercise both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well developed tactical drills for neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenario.
  3. Experts from both sides will also hold detailed discussions to share their experience on varied topics for mutual benefits.
  4. The exercise will contribute immensely in developing mutual understanding & respect for each others military and also facilitate in tackling the world wide phenomenon of terrorism.
Indian Army Updates