Over the years, millions of Indians have migrated to urban areas in search of employment leaving behind their ancestral property. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many informal job centres were closed down, forcing people to migrate back to their villages. This reverse migration has led to an increase in the demand for land ownership given its significance in accessing loans and government relief programmes.
Since a vast portion of the Indian population is dependent on land for its livelihood, it is considered as a valuable asset. The process of updating land records began in the 1980s, but it was a slow process that was speeded up only in 2008 when Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP) was launched by the Government of India.
The abysmal condition of the land records system and the shortage in the availability of open and updated lands have been the roadblocks. The vestiges of the colonial legacy in the Indian administration is one of the reasons for the poor land policies. Furthermore, the regulations and policies regarding land records vary between the states and the union territories. This heterogeneous character of the guidelines has impeded the process of land record management in India. The data received from the UTs and states showed that there is no provision for online mutation (the process of updating the ownership of a piece of land once the registration of a transaction is done) on the very day of enrollment.
DILRMP’s sample impact assessment found that there is insufficient skilled manpower in the state departments of land records. The ineffective integration and coordination between the Survey and Settlement department (custodian of spatial records), Revenue department (incharge of textual records) and Registration department (responsible for registration of land transactions) creates a significant gulf between the reports of spatial and textual records leaving scope for legal disputes to arise over the extent of plots and boundaries.
The NCAER Land Records and Services Index (N-LRSI) launched in 2020 by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) evaluates the performance of the states on two fronts: quality and digitization of land records. The 2021 findings of N-LRSI display that despite the pandemic, the states and UTs have made meticulous efforts towards improving along the two parameters as is shown in the case of Bihar, where it rose to 8th position from the 23rd by making a remarkable improvement in digitizing maps, records and the registration procedure.
According to the N-LRSI, the path of revival of rural economy is determination to improve and open-mindedness of states. The structural rigidities that have been in place for decades need to be reassessed so that an improved land records system can be ushered in. Maharashtra Government’s decision to lower stamp duties shows that simple steps go a long way into improving the institutions. Only when all the units of India make a holistic and collective effort towards easing the process of land transaction can the ever rising demand for land be addressed in a systematic manner.
This article has been written by Ruchira Sarma for The Paradigm
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