The government’s effort to digitise land records is poised to revolutionise the country’s longstanding land management system. Part of the ‘Digital India’ initiative, this endeavour entails the conversion of traditional paper-based records into electronic formats.
Land records are vital for a country’s governance and economic development. In India, the management of these records is poorly executed and highly decentralised leading to a host of roadblocks and difficulties faced by the common people as well as civil authorities and businesses. This system of land records has historically been complex and burdensome, leading to inefficiencies, disputes, and corruption. Land disputes congest the entire judicial system in India, constituting the largest category of cases in terms of both absolute numbers and pending legal matters.
According to an estimate, more than 9.3 million people are affected by land conflicts in a total area spanning 3.9 million hectares. This has an impact on investments worth $372 billion. To address these challenges, the Indian government initiated the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP). This ambitious project aims to digitise land records, minimise discrepancies, and enhance accessibility, ultimately facilitating hassle-free land transactions and improving governance.
WHAT IS DILRMP?
According to the Centre, the objective of DILRMP is “to develop a modern, comprehensive and transparent land record management system”.
DILRMP, revamped as a Central Sector Scheme since April 1, 2016 with full funding from the Centre, aims to modernize land record management. Its goal is to establish an Integrated Land Information Management System to enhance real-time land information access, optimise land resource use, benefit landowners and investors, support policy planning, reduce land disputes, prevent fraudulent transactions, eliminate the need for physical visits to offices, and facilitate information sharing with various agencies.
Over 94% of rights records and state-specific registration offices have already undergone digitisation as part of this programme. The digitalisation of land records is of great significance as it has the potential to enhance transparency in land-related transactions, mitigate property ownership disputes, and streamline land management processes.
The government has actively championed the digitisation of land records through initiatives like the National Land Records Modernisation Programme and the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme. Significant progress has been achieved so far in this exhaustive exercise.
As of December 2023, 95% of the Record of Rights had been computerised, 68% of cadastral maps had been digitised, 94.95% of computerization of registration and 87.48% of the integration of sub registrar offices with land records had been completed.
The government has granted approval for extending the DILRMP for an additional five years, spanning from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
A RANGE OF BENEFITS
Completing the digitisation of land records will bring about several significant benefits. Firstly, it will decrease the extensive backlog of land dispute cases, thereby reducing the burden of litigation.
Secondly, it will streamline property transactions and enhance transparency in identifying the correct beneficiaries for compensation in cases of land acquisition by the government. This transparency will also contribute to improving credit access.
Thirdly, it will promote a consistent and standardised format of record keeping across the nation, enabling seamless compatibility and clarity of information cutting through cultural and linguistic barriers.
Furthermore, the benefits to the economy will be far-reaching. According to Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Giriraj Singh, the digitization initiative is expected to boost the country’s GDP by 1.5% and improve India’s ease of doing business ranking.
CRUSHING OBSTACLES WITH INNOVATION
DILRMP is a revolutionary exercise in reorganising an age-old haphazardly managed land record system. Under this programme, the concept of digitisation is being applied to all aspects of record keeping including land records, registration processes and cadastral maps, that is maps drawn to identify land ownership, and so on.
The aim is to neutralise each obstacle with technology and innovation. Manually maintained records will be standardised and converted into digitised formats. Cadastral maps will receive a digital transformation, offering a visual insight into land parcels, ownership records and other information, again in a standardised manner. The land record will also be integrated with the registration processes, which will smoothen property transactions and end the scope for fraud.
Standardisation is in itself a hefty task for states to implement but one that would pay off greatly. The implementation of uniform formats of presenting data information and linguistic translations in diverse country like India would benefit generations to come.
In fact, a transliteration process is already under way and scientific research and development institute has been roped in for this task. With technical assistance from the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Pune, the government has launched an initiative to transliterate Records of Rights from local languages into any of the 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. A pilot test is currently being conducted in eight states: Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. In total, 17 states have adopted transliteration tools to revamp their land records.
Another innovation in this realm is the Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) or Bhu-Aadhar. The ULPIN is a 14 digit Alpha–numeric unique ID which “will have ownership details of the plot besides its size and longitudinal and latitudinal details”.
According to a government notification, this would facilitate real estate transactions, help resolve property boundaries issues and improve disaster planning and response efforts. So far, nearly every state has adopted this system and is building its records.
The National Generic Document Registration System (NGDRS) or E-Registration is another initiative under the DILRMP. The NGDRS is or e-Registration is a common, generic and configurable application developed for Registration Departments across the country. It helps citizens through online entry of deed, online payment, online appointment, online admission, document search and certified copy generation. This innovation has received the Prime Minister Award for Excellence in Public Administration for 2021 for the central category of innovation.
DILRMP is an exhaustive exercise which requires the cooperation and dedication of state governments which ultimately manage land records. Achievements in this realm would elevate India’s real estate sector and ultimately its economy to highly competent levels, opening up greater opportunities and increasing investments. Finally, it would lead to a fairer system that safeguards Indian citizens from fraud, disputes and bureaucratic hassles.