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Ushering in conclusive titling

Rita Sinha
Rita Sinha, IAS
Dept of Land Resources
Ministry of Rural Development
Government of India

An efficient land record system is a prerequisite for any development activity and more so for a country like India which is registering a phenomenal economic growth. The National Land Record Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) is a crucial initiative towards achieving this. Can you tell us more about the vision and scope of NLRMP.
Land is a State subject in India. Several State governments had initiated projects to computerise land records in the past with varying degrees of success with the aim of improving the land records management system. The Government of India decided to implement the centrally-sponsored scheme National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) by merging two existing schemes – Computerisation of Land Records and Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records (SRA&ULR) – under the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development with the aim of ushering in the system of Conclusive Titles.

The objective of NLRMP is to develop a modern, comprehensive and transparent land records management system in the country which will pave the way towards conclusive land-titling system (Torrens system) from the present system of “presumptive” property title.

This will be based on four basic principles – a single window to handle land records (including the maintenance and updating of textual records, maps, survey and settlement operations and registration of immovable property); the “mirror” principle, which refers to the fact that cadastral records mirror the ground reality; the “curtain” principle which indicates that the record of the title is a true depiction of the ownership status, mutation is automated and automatic following registration and the reference to past records is not necessary and title insurance, which guarantees the title for its correctness and indemnifies the title holder against loss arising on account of any defect therein.

The major components of the programme are

  • Computerisation of all land records including mutations
  • Survey/re-survey and updation of all survey and settlement records including creation of original cadastral records wherever necessary using latest technologies,
  • Computerisation of registration and its integration with the land records maintenance system, development of a core GIS and
  • Training and capacity building.

There are several issues in each of these steps. For example, several government organisations handle land management which do not work in tandem. It is important to interconnect these organisations through information technology so that citizen has a single window for all land-related issues. Similarly, legacy issues delay the process of linking up registration process. We are addressing this issue. We are also planning to do away with stamp papers and introduce e-stamping. After a three-year study, we have zeroed in on latest technologies for survey/re-survey like total stations and differential GPS for ground truthing; hybrid methodology using aerial photography/high resolution satellite imagery along with ground truthing methods.

The programme requires conversion of existing paper maps into GIS-ready digital form in order to facilitate updating of cadastral maps in sync with the changes made to the record of rights (RoRs).

Three layers of data – spatial data from high resolution satellite imagery/aerial photography, maps and data from the Survey of India and the Forest Survey of India, and revenue records data from cadastral maps and the RoR details – will be integrated and harmonised on a GIS platform. In this regard, the thematic GIS layers are already available or would become available (including the periodic updates) through the NIC, the National Spatial Data Base of the Planning Commission, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure partners, the National Natural Resource Management System, etc., with the NIC and the NLRMP national mission playing the coordinating and leadership roles. The cadastral layer will become available from the States and UTs once the maps and other data get digitised. However, village index base maps may have to be obtained from satellite imagery vendors.

The cadastral map for each village is available on larger scales like 1:4000 to 1:10,000. These maps need to be brought under standard projection/ coordinate system for effective linkage of the developmental plans generated in the GIS environment. The digitised data will be converted into topologically correct GIS data format.

Does NLRMP have any mandate for States and union territories (UT) regarding land record management or its role is to facilitate their proposals? Also, many States have already built or are in the process of modernising their land records. What are the efforts to integrate and streamline these activities?
The Central government cannot legislate as land is a State subject. Each State government will have to usher in its own laws keeping in mind the overall spirit of conclusive titling and at the same time accommodating local requirements in the legislations. Some Central Acts may also need amendments for which the Central government will take the initiative. We are developing a “model law” for conclusive titling as a hand-holding exercise for those states which may request for help in drafting their legislation.

The State governments/ UT administrations are implementing the programme with financial and technical support from the Dept. of Land Resources, Government of India. The district has been taken as the unit of implementation, where all activities under the programme are required to converge. The states within the country are at different stages of modernisation process – some of them are doing cadastral mapping for the first time while others have already integrated the revenue and registration processes and are just a few steps away from conclusive titling. The challenge for the Central government is to bring all the States to the same level of modernisation, so that the country moves together towards conclusive titling without disturbing the varied socio-economic systems prevailing in the States.

What is the status of implementation of the programme? What target has NLRMP set for itself?
Right now, 148 districts in the country are working on NLRMP. We target to add 40 more this year. The Programme has a budgetary allocation of Rs 200 crore per annum. Each State government is requested to take up a few districts per year in such a way that the entire country is covered in the next eight years under the NLRMP.

The States that are undertaking cadastral surveys for the first time may take a little longer to complete the NLRMP. Although it is envisaged that NLRMP will be complete by the end of 12th Five Year Plan, the country need not wait till then to introduce conclusive titling. Appropriate legislations can enable the States to implement conclusive titling in a modular way by introducing it in those districts which complete all activities necessary for the same.

Right now, we are in the process of drafting a titling document that will give more clarity on evolving towards titling and the processes involved. We would soon conduct a workshop on titling where all the States would be participating to understand the process. We would like to encourage voluntary titling to start with and would suggest a timeframe for the States to go for compulsory titling.

Is NLRMP looking at involving the private sector and in what capacity?
It is obvious that even with the combined efforts of the Central and State governments, there are many gaps in fulfilling such an ambitious programme within the targeted period. In order to streamline the implementation of the Programme and to achieve the targets within the proposed timeframe, publicprivate partnerships (PPP) have been made an integral part of the scheme with respect to certain activities under the Programme or outsource them on a turnkey basis.

The State governments have the freedom to identify areas which can be easily contracted out to private parties, with government functionaries fulfilling only their legal obligations. Some of the activities that can be considered for outsourcing/PPP include preparation of the NLRMP perspective plan/detailed project report (DPR) for the State/UT and district respectively, survey/resurvey work using modern survey technology, ground-truthing through TS/GPS, data entry/re-entry of textual records, preparation of records of undisputed mutations for the approval of designated authority as per the relevant laws, data entry of approved mutation records, subject to mandatory authentication by designated departmental officials as per the state/UT laws, GISready digitisation of cadastral maps and integration of digitised textual and spatial records, computerisation of the sub-registrar’s office, data entry of legacy data regarding property, data entry of property valuation details, scanning and preservation of old records, setting up of, preferably selfsustaining, information kiosks, training and capacity building, drafting of legal changes/ framework for conclusive titling, information, education and communication (IEC) activities and evaluation.

There is a severe shortage of skilled manpower in the country to carry out such a gigantic task. Is NLRMP looking into capacity building issues also?
Intimately linked with the transfer of technology is the issue of capacity building. Where once the knowledge of measuring land by chain and tape was enough for revenue functionaries, they now have to be well versed with computers, scanning, digitisation, total stations, GPS, aerial photography, satellite imagery, and to some extent, with the registration process. Similarly, the registration officers have now to be trained in computers as well as in land record management.

The first step would be to build a cadre of master trainers at the State level who would then ensure percolation of technology to the district level, from where it would be transferred to the village level.

For effective capacity building, upgradation of existing training institutes has been made an integral part of NLRMP. NLRMP cells would be established in three major training institutes in every State.

The IAS Academy in Mussorie has been identified for initial training. A state-of-the-art institute at the national level has also been conceptualised to provide necessary training.