Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The need for digitizing land records in India


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Land Records Modernization Programme, Digital India initiative, Bhoomi Project

Mains level: Need of land record digitization and associated benefits


Poor state of land records

  1. The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has often pointed out that a modern market economy requires a strong system of property rights
  2. India is a mess on this front
  3. Land titles are presumptive rather than conclusive

Impact of poor record keeping

  1. Nearly two-thirds of all pending cases in Indian courts are related to property disputes
  2. NITI Aayog has said that such property cases take an average of 20 years to settle
  3. The result is that millions of Indians cannot use their principal asset as collateral to borrow from the formal financial system
  4. The poor suffer the most

Steps taken by the government to resolve this problem

  1. The Union government has been busy trying to address this problem for almost a decade
  2. National Land Records Modernization Programme was started in August 2008
  3. It is now part of the Digital India initiative
  4. The broad aim is to modernize land records management, reduce the scope for property disputes, make land records more transparent and move towards conclusive property titles

Unique schemes by the states

Some of the most interesting work of sorting out the land titling mess has been done by state governments, as has been the case with labour law reforms as well

The Bhoomi Project in Karnataka led the way even before the Union government got into the act

  • The state government began to digitize land records at the turn of the century
  • The relevant document—the record of rights, tenancy and crops—has been made available through kiosks

The Rajasthan legislature passed the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act in April 2016

  • This law ensures that the state government is a guarantor for land titles in Rajasthan, and will provide compensation in case of issues of defective title
  • The guarantee is based on certification provided by the Urban Land Title Certification Authority, which will verify ownership of any property for a fee

Andhra Pradesh has taken a leap into the future

  •  Its state government has tied up with a Swedish firm to use new blockchain technology to prevent property fraud
  • As in all other trades, blockchain will allow participants in a distributed ledger to check the ownership of a land parcel

Way Forward

  1. Clear land titles will ease a lot of constraints—from making it easier for the poor to borrow from the formal financial sector to easing commercial land acquisition for infrastructure projects instead of the misuse of eminent domain
  2. Where property rights are ensured, so are the prosperity, freedom and ownership of wealth that brings real stability and peace
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