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Indian city with museum of land records

Pune, the paradise of pensioneers, got the country’s first ever museum of land records, opened last week. Spread over 1,600 sq ft, the museum showcases, among other things, the history of the science of cadastral surveys through a collection of old maps, surveying instruments and information about the old and modern techniques used in surveying.

“Alongside the evolution of cadastral survey, the museum exhibits also trace the history of settlements in the country, with a special reference to Maharashtra,” informs T C Benjamin, settlement commissioner and director of land records.

So, one gets to see a rare map of 1843 which shows Mumbai as a group of seven islands. The archaic survey tools, such as compass and plumb bob, would be displayed along side the modern instruments such as total static machine.

The museum will display lots of information about surveying techniques such as satellite imaging and aerial photography, and the system of preparing land records and maps during 2500 BC Indus valley civilisation; the medieval period; the replica of a copper plate announcing a land deal made by a Trakutaka king almost 1,300 years ago; a map of Braj, the mythical birthplace of Lord Krishna; to maps from the Maratha, Nizam and British periods.

Then there are rare maps of the Miraj princely state, which shows the areas where taxes used to be collected for opium, alcohol and tobacco trade; a map of famine-affected Bombay princely state (dated 1899).

The work to set up the museum began a year ago. Now, the museum finally opened for the public, the biggest beneficiaries will be students who do not have mapping and map reading in their curricula. Says Benjamin, “A child, who can map his neighbourhood, would have a better appreciation of his surroundings”.

The museum of land records has been set up with a Rs 20-lakh assistance from the Union government under its ‘Strengthening of Revenue Administra-tion’ scheme.

But why a museum for land records? Benjamin explains, “We thought a museum of this sort would help remove people’s ignorance about the importance of land records, how they are prepared and maintained, and about the department of land records. The department happens to be one of the oldest government departments in Maharashtra.”

But the museum is too small to display all the exhibits of the department together. Admits the settlement commissioner, “Lack of space has prohibited displaying all the exhibits together. Hence we have decided to change the exhibits periodically.”

Benjamin says, “Maharashtra is perhaps the only state in India where the land records, both urban and rural, are fully computerised.” There are about 2.2 crore records of rights (satbara) in rural areas and about 53 lakh in urban areas of Maharashtra.