Land Management System in India Past, present and future

Land Management System in India Past, present and future


Vinay Thakur1, Ganesh Khadanga2, D. S. Venkatesh3, D. R. Shukla
Land Records Information Systems Division
National Informatics Centre, New Delhi
Email: [email protected]1, [email protected]2, [email protected]3
An information system may be formally defined as a combination of human and technical resources, together with a set of organising procedures that produces information in support of some managerial requirement. Data are collection of raw facts. Data relating to land may be acquired and held in alphanumeric form (for example books), or graphically (for example, as maps or aerial photographs), or digitally (for example, using electronic methods). To become information, the raw data must be processed so that it can be understood by a decision maker. A Land Information System gives support to land management by providing information about the land, the resources upon it and the improvements made to it.

Land Information System may be designed to serve one primary function or they may be multifunctional for supporting strategic planning. The focus is on determining organisational objectives and on the resources employed to achieve them. Some provide for management control and are concerned with the effective use of resources so as to accomplish an organisation’s objectives. Others are designed for operational control so that specific tasks can be carried out effectively and efficiently. Each requirement dictates a special set of information criteria and hence a special type of information system. Some of the most important of these systems relate to land parcels. Many of the land information systems are being developed around the land parcel as the basic spatial unit.

Land Information management
Land information needs to be carefully managed to maximise its potential benefits. Over the last two decades, new capabilities for data collection and processing, together with expanding requirements of users, have directed attention to the need for improved land information management strategies. Such strategies are concerned with the effective organisation of resources in order to achieve a set of objectives. These objectives may include improvements to the coverage, content, compatibility and reliability of information of access to it and the possibility of integrating it with other data. The ultimate goal is to meet the needs of users more efficiently, effectively and equitably.

The cadastre is often the principal source of information about ownership rights in land. Even when compiled for fiscal purposes, the record of payment of tax may constitute evidence of ownership of land. The basic unit of the cadastral record is the land parcel which is known as a plot. Although plots may be subdivided into smaller units or amalgamated with adjoining parcels into larger ones, the land which they cover remains unchanged. The need to record the details of land parcels within a cadastre stems from a need for better administration of land. Land is the ultimate resource, from which all wealth comes. Improvement in the management of land are essential for the betterment of both rural and urban poor. The inadequacy of land information poses serious constraints on what can be done. Without the knowledge about the owner of the land, development cannot take place. In consequence, emphasis in many development programmes is now being placed on ensuring that rights in land are identified, recognised by the state and recorded in some suitable form. The whole of this process is referred to as cadastre.

Parcel based information is required in a wide variety of activities. Frequent users range from existing or prospective landowners to lawyers, surveyors, valuers, real-estate managers and agencies at all levels of the government. During the recent past, the demand for this information has expanded. This has extended the applications of existing parcel-based information systems and created the need for new ones. Some of these changes have arisen because of: (a) need for more efficient handling of land title documents to provide greater security of tenure for those in occupation of land and to keep pace with the greater demand for reconveyancing; (b) rise in property values, and a need for better support for mortgaging and investment; (c) steady increase in the number of private and public users who make routine enquiries about land ownership; (d) growing concern about the quality of the environment; (e) greater attention which has been paid to physical planning and to land development programmes, which, in turn, has resulted in a growth in the number of users and the variety of uses of cadastral information; and (f) specific land planning and management problems which have arisen in certain areas, such as the need to protect agricultural land around the edges of cities. In many third world countries the greatest pressure on the land is the urban fringe.

In a more sophisticated system, however, there will be elements of high technology applied to data storage, processing and communications. The advantages of automation include: (i) the physical compaction of data, so that less storage space is required; (ii) easier handling and updation allowing much more efficient and effective analysis; (iii) the possibility of merging graphic and attribute data in one set of operations; (iv) the integration of databases so that different data sets can be merged and processed together for better and effective analysis; (v) ensuring the safety of data through the usage of non-erasable optical storage devices like compact disk-read only memory (CD_ROM) devices and (vi) easier and faster data transfer through the latest technology associated with the computer and communication.

Land Records – Past History
It has been universally accepted principle that the rulers of the State are entitled to a portion of the produce of the land from those who utilise it as a price for the protection of their life and property and also to meet the common expenses of the community. It is this concept of collection of revenue that necessitated the maintenance of land records, although in a rudimentary form, in ancient times. The ‘Arthsastra’ was the first Indian work to mention the village officers known as “gopa” whose duties include preparation of various registers for the village fields, transfers, due taxes etc. Attempt to reform the system was first made by Sher Shah whereby land was categorised, measured and a schedule of crop rates was fixed. This was further developed during the regime of Akbar, who, with the assistance of Raja Todar Mal, fixed cash rates on a more scientific and rational basis. Elaborate Methods were devised for determining the average produce of each class of land and for commuting grain rates into money rates. In fact Akbar’s settlement widely resembled the later settlement effected under the British rule. Subsequently, during 1822, regulations were introduced for detailed surveys and regulations.

The primary interest of the British rulers was the collection of land revenue and, consequently, the system of land records was also organised to serve that purpose. After Independence considerable importance has been necessitated for reliable statistics related to crop, irrigation and land use so that they could form the basis of land development of the country. It, in turn, helped in strengthening the land records development process. All these situations helped in development of the present day land records system. In any land record, a number of records are prescribed to be maintained at the village, tehsil and district levels and statements of land holdings, land revenue and rental cropped areas, land use pattern. There are more than 20 registers that are being maintained by Revenue Department. The number of registers again varies from State to State.

The principal records being maintained are (1) Village map: A pictorial form showing the village and field boundaries; (2) Field books or ‘khasra’ which is an index to the map, in which changes in the field boundaries, their area, particulars of tenure-holders, methods of Irrigation, cropped area, other uses of land etc. are shown and (3) Records of Right also known as ‘khatouni’, in which the names and classes of tenure of all occupants of land are recorded.

Computerisation of Land Records – Present Scenario
Since First Plan, Planners have been advocating proper maintenance of land records as the basis of good administration. This was reiterated in the Second Plan and Third Plans. The Sixth Plan envisaged the complementation and updation of land records from 1980 to 1985. According to the Seventh Plan document, “Land records form the base for all land reform measures and therefore, regular periodic updating of land records is essential in all states.” The Eighth Plan (1992-1997) and the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) have also envisaged the fulfillment of all five-year principles of National Land Reforms Policies that is the abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reforms with security to actual cultivators, redistribution of ceiling, surplus land consolidation of holdings and updation of land records. Subsequently in the 73rd Amendment to the constitution it has been mentioned that computerisation of land records is an essential step to achieve decentralised planning and effective administration.

Subsequently, during 1988-99, centrally–sponsored scheme on computerisation of land records was started with 100% financial assistance as a pilot project in eight states (RangaReddy in Andhra Pradesh, Mayurbhanj in Orissa, Sonitpur in Assam, Singhbhum in Bihar, Wardha in Maharastra, Dungarpur in Rajasthan and Gandhinagar in Gujarat). Then the scheme was extended to 24 districts of different States. At present, the scheme is extended to all the 544 districts in the country. During 1997-’98, it was decided to cover 1400 tehsils/taluks under the land records computerisation scheme.

The scheme is being implemented since 1994-1995 by MRD in collaboration with NIC where NIC is responsible for the supply and installation of hardware, software and maintenance of peripherals. In all the States, LRC project was started with basically data entry of khasra and khatoni with the help of file based database software supported by the unix operation system which was the operating system of the time. The customised data entry screens were developed for entering the raw attribute data into a database. Then the complete villagewise ‘khatoni’ and ‘khasra’ repots were generated through the report generation modules. The basic feature was that the software used at that time was the capability of data entry in local language. The CDAC’s GIST technology was used to achieve multilingual data entry from unix dumb terminals.

Subsequently, during early 1995, the ORACLE 6.0 database on the unix platform has been introduced into land records. The data from file based database user was ported to ORACLE database. During this time more stress was also given for capturing the mutation data for period updation of land records. As ORACLE provides a better flexibility, strong security and auditing features are key features entered into land records computerisation. Once again the multilingual feature was also extended through the GIST technology from dumb terminals. During 1998, modern Windows based OS has gained popularity and Window 95/98 and Windows NT server was introduced into land records computerisation process. Then the most popular application development tool, VB 6.0 from Microsoft was used to develop the customised data entry screens. Also the data from foxbase/ORACLE platform was ported to windows platform. The GIST SDK from CDAC was used for multilingual support in the application. Since then, application development for mutation data entry and linking the land records data with the registration data and issue of general certificates like ROR and caste certificate were given prime importance. During the starting of the millennium digitisation of cadastral maps were stated on pilot basis.

Computerisation of Land Records: Future Vision
The benefits of the computerised system include certainty of ownership, security of data, reduction in land disputes, improved conveyancing, facilitating implementation of land reforms programmes, better management of land, improvements in planning land related development programmes, support for land resource management, facilitating issue of copy of record of rights (ROR) to the owner and making the data available in a compact and readable form at any time. Other benefits include reducing the time lag in effecting mutations in the field and registers to permissible limits, reducing the gap in the level of updation of data in records and associated maps as the maps can be plotted instantaneously through high speed plotters, extracting all the registers that are maintained mandatorily as per rules through computers. Also the integration of land records data and the associated map data is possible through the advancement in information technology.

For instance, if a plot is identified in a village map, the computer can give the data relating to that plot by accessing the database instantaneously. Similarly aggregation of land records data and associated map data to produce higher level data is possible. For example, using the basic data on plots, it is possible to produce village data and the village maps. Similarly aggregation is possible at the tehsil and district levels also. Sensitivity analysis of the data, wherever applicable, is possible. For example, using the data on type of land, area and rate of revenue, it is possible to know the net effect of change of rate of revenue of any type of land on the total revenue. This will be useful for taking policy decisions.

This will be useful for easy and time availability of data at any desired location planning is a reconciliation of social and economic aims, of private and public objectives. It is the allocation of resources, particularly land in such a manner as to obtain maximum efficiency. In this way, planning is therefore the art of anticipating change and arbitrating between the economic, social, political and physical forces that determine the location, form and effect of urban development. In the rural environment, the aims of the planners are similar, though the strategies for their realisation will be different. It has been realised from last decade that land records computerisation should cater to the following activities: (1) Linking of attribute data with the cadastral maps through a GIS; (2) As the existing village maps are not georeferenced, resurvey with the help of GPS may be taken up. This will enable us to produce maps with proper coordinate system; (3) The issue that ROR is not the basic requirement in methodology of distribution of the ROR to the public has also to be stressed and (4) Development of portal that with the help of the Satellite based map and attribute data recorded so far.

Linking Attribute Data with the Cadastral Data
It has been realised that the linking of attribute data as generated through data entry process has to be linked with the village map/cadastral map. This will indicate the boundary of the land unit along with surrounding features. It will also provide more information than the text ROR as issued now. This linking of attribute data with maps can be performed by any GIS package. It involves basically two steps: porting of attribute data from exiting database like foxbase/ORACLE/SQL Server to the database, available within the GIS and linking of this attribute data with the maps. The problems faced during this process are: (i) The present day GIS packages are still working on the file-based database bases, this makes the porting of the attribute data into a GIS a difficult task; (ii) For accurate analysis in a GIS the map should be well identified with any coordinate system, the village maps are not georeferenced; (iii) Multilingual support in GIS with CDAC Fonts/Activex Controls are also to be sorted out. This has led to the conclusion that a resurvey with the help of GPS may be taken up. This will enable us to produce maps with proper coordinate system. Aerial Photography supported with GPS may be taken up for fresh development of cadastral maps.

Service To People
Service providing mechanism is the key factor in success of any system. Present day internet is the only technology, which is going to prevail for the future and is expected to be the only technology that will reach the mass. All the recent GIS packages like ArcInfo, MapInfo, Spans support the web based technology. They provide web servers to build dynamic world wide web pages that will allow user to access, query and visualise GIS, remotely using their favourite web browers. The GIS web servers use the HTML and scripting languages (EASI script in Spans) for development of applications. Providing service to the people has to be stressed further through introduction of franchised cyber cafes. Right to access the data may be provided to public. The downloading of any document may be allowed on nominal fees. With the introduction of cyber bill, issue of ROR and other documents with maps of the land parcel through Internet on nominal fees will be the future of the land records computerisation.

Looking Ahead
It is desirable to have properly georeferenced land records data and it’s integration with other land parameters for planning and decision-making. It is important that cadastral survey using latest technology may be done for the entire country. Disputed cases in land titles should also be decided at the earliest. Computerisation process should integrate registration of land titles. Land laws/mutation process should be simplified for easy and fast implementation of computerisation.