A modern market economy necessitates a strong system of property rights as per Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. India lacks badly on this front where land titles are presumptive rather than conclusive.
According to some estimates, nearly two-thirds of all pending cases in our courts are related to property disputes. NITI Aayog has accepted that it takes an average of 20 years to settle property cases in India which results into millions of Indians failing to use their principal asset as collateral to borrow from the formal financial channels of the country.
Response of Government
Union Government is trying to address this issue since the last one decade. UPA did try to address it by launching National Lands Records Modernisation Programme in August 2008 which is now the part of ‘Digital India’ campaign. The broad objective is to modernise land records management and reduce the scope of disputes of property so as to make land records transparent and move towards conclusive property titles.
In the past decade, the progress has been uneven with some states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra performing better than others. There are challenges in even advanced states such as Maharashtra where newly digitised land records are doing a good job to reflect ownership of land but fail to record encumbrances and area of land parcels. Nevertheless, most of the interesting work related to sorting out the land titling is already complete in many states but much more needs to be done.
Case studies – Achievements of State Governments
- First, the Bhoomi Project in Karnataka led the way before even the Union Government got into the act. State started digitising land records at the turn of century and relevant documents such as the record of rights, tenancy and crops were made available through kiosks. It has removed the need to pay bribes to get access to basic information about land titles in government offices.
- Secondly, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act in April 2016 to ensure that the state government is a guarantor for land titles in Rajasthan and it will provide compensation in case of issues of defective title. This guarantee is based on certification provided by the Urban Land Title Certification Authority which is tasked to verify ownership of property in return for a fee.
- Thirdly, the Andhra Pradesh government has tied up with a Swedish firm to use new blockchain technology to prevent property fraud. Blockchain technology will allow participants in a distributed ledger to check the ownership of a land record.
Significance of digitising land records
- Rather than promoting imaginary Marxist equality in poverty, we can bring property rights to all mankind to ensure freedom, prosperity and ownership of wealth to bring real peace and stability.
- Clearing land titles will ease a lot of constraints such as making it easier for the poor to borrow from the formal financial institutions and easing of commercial land acquisition for infrastructure projects.
India’s digitisation push towards land records should have been completed by now but the government has pushed the year of completion to 2021 which is understandable due to the involvement of state governments. When we are computerising these land records, some attention should be paid to explore the possibilities offered by new technologies such as blockchain.
Source – Livemint
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