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Can Blockchain Technology Facilitate Better Land Governance in India?

Land registries across the world, are either almost entirely badly kept or are distorted/mismanaged; leading to lack of security rights becoming an endemic source of insecurity for the public. Property rights are a contentious issue in India, as land records in many parts of the country date back to colonial times. The root cause of land conflicts in the country is the archaic legislation, namely the Registration Act 1908, which allows only ‘presumptive ownership’. As a result of this two-thirds of all civil cases across the country today, deal with mainly property disputes.

As digital adoption continues to gain traction in India, blockchain technology, is seeing sustained support from state governments for improved/enhanced efficiency of government processes and ensuring transparency. Blockchain, with regards to property rights, has the potential to eliminate the scope of forgery, fraud, tampering, as well as the distribution of records. It can also facilitate smart contracts, that would make the transfer of land titles much more efficient/convenient.

India is currently witnessing one of the biggest fintech revolutions in the world, with ‘Digital India’. However, even with the Digital India Records Modernization Program (DILRMP) pushing for reforms, the current land system is still plagued with deficiencies. Challenges like monumental time-gap in updating title changes, incomplete registration, illegal mutation, forgery etc. are still palpable challenges in the real-estate domain. Apart from this, the current land system is also rife with corruption, with an estimated $700 million being paid as bribes across India, at land registrars.

Thus, instituting a system which comprises of un-erasable data records that have permanent audit trails, can turn out to be a comprehensive solution, pertaining to most of the issues that are related to secure property right and in turn, better land governance. Making all transactions verifiable and accountable, blockchain systems, apart from securing property rights for lawful owners, will also enhance the level of trust in the land governance system, thus making a marked improvement in the ease of doing business and bring about a reduction, in property-related litigation.

E-governance and digitization of government records, has been a slow-paced process in India, which has more often than not, added to the red-tape. Having said this however, the Indian government is now realizing the potential of going digital for enhanced efficiency as well as making a quantum jump in transparency, resilience and security by adopting blockchain systems. Thus, switching to the digitization of land records based on distributed-ledger technology would be a great start. With state governments like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan etc. looking to unlock the potential of blockchain systems to usher in better land governance, the adoption of new technology will not only pave way for accountability, transparency and secure property rights for its citizens,but also help in realizing the dream of a truly ‘Digital India’.