Digital Land (Comprehensive System of Land Management)


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Digital Land (Comprehensive System of Land Management)

Digital Land
Contents
Overview....................................................................................................................................................... 3 Historical Background of Land Management in U.P................................................................................... 4 Issues and Challenges................................................................................................................................... 6 Interventions by the Board of Revenue ....................................................................................................... 8 “Digital Land” Solution................................................................................................................................. 9 Impact of “Digital Land” ............................................................................................................................ 12 Way Forward .............................................................................................................................................. 15 Teaching Notes ........................................................................................................................................... 17 Abbreviations ............................................................................................................................................. 20
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Overview
Uttar Pradesh has 18 divisions, 75 Districts and 350 Tehsils spread across 2.35 crore hectare land area, which is divided into 1,08,848 revenue villages with 7.65 crore plots with 11.19 crore owners and 3.38 crore Khatas in Khatauni (RoR) and 2486 Revenue Courts with 11.24 Lakh Revenue Court Cases. Before the “Digital Land” initiative, all the disputes and their records were maintained manually. The manual records gave rise to data manipulations, for corrupt purposes, and led to lack of transparency in the whole process.
“Digital Land” is a project conceived and implemented by the Government of Uttar Pradesh for Digitization of Land Records, with technical support of NIC UP State Centre, presenting a model of a paradigm shift from department centric closed approach to citizen centric open approach and a process oriented system to a service oriented system. It is an integrated and interoperable solution for extending e-Services related to rural land of Uttar Pradesh. It comprises of online web applications of Land Records, Revenue Court Cases, Bhu-Naksha (Digitized Cadastral Maps), Khasra (Field book with Crop details), Online Mutation (for recording Succession or Varasat) and Anti-Bhu-Mafia Portal (for action against land grabbers). All these applications have been integrated on a single platform and further integrated with/being utilized by applications of other departments like Registration (for sale/purchase of Land), Food and Civil Supplies (for Food grains Procurement), Agriculture (for Farmers' Loan Waiver Scheme, Soil testing, Agriculture Survey and Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna), Forest (for creating Land Bank and Compensatory forestation), CM Office (for review of public grievances - Jan Sunwai), e-District (for issue of solvency, income, domicile and caste certificates)
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and Banks/Financial Institutions (for recording mortgage etc.) through web services/user-login.
This huge and inter connected data generated in the applications of Digital Land project and the information based on this data is being made available online to the common public and other stakeholders through several points of online services including more than 85000 Common Service Centers and Lokvani Kendras. Apart from bringing transparency in the system, reduction in corruption and harassment of public, the “Digital Land” project is generating revenue of crores of rupees for the service providers as well as the Department through the distribution of digitally signed Khatauni (Record of Rights or RoRs). About one crore users are being benefitted with this e-Gov initiative every day. The project indeed has not only modernized the management and upkeep of Land Records but also had significant impact on litigation, disputes and related crimes and violence emanating from these land disputes.
Goals of the Project:  Improvement of working efficiency  Elimination of duplicate and inconsistent record keeping  Reduction in dependency among various stakeholders  Electronic security and control of confidential data  Improving decision making in view of better reporting mechanisms
Historical Background of Land Management in U.P.
Historically, in the absence of other major economic activities, the main source of tax or revenue for the Rulers or Governments, was the land revenue collected from the farmers. During Mughal period, it was known as "Chauth" implying that one fourth of the crop produced, had to be given to the State as land revenue or Tax. In order to assess the land revenue to be collected from the farmers, land measurement, record keeping and land management procedures were evolved.
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One of the earliest land records management systems was developed during Emperor Akbar's reign by Raja Todar Mal (one of the nine Nav-Ratnas in Akbar's court), who is regarded as the father of land record keeping in India. When the British came to India, their utmost priority was to maximize their revenue. It is no surprise that as soon as the British Crown directly took over the control and administration of India from East India Company after 1857, they set up an elaborate system for assessment and collection of land revenue, which was called "Lagaan". The post of "Collector", who was responsible for the collection of Government revenue, was created at the District level and Collector became the most important and nodal functionary of the Government. At the State level (in Uttar Pradesh), Board of Revenue was set up as the Apex body for supervising the work of all the Collectors and Commissioners in the State and for reviewing the collection of land revenue and management of land records. It is interesting to note that the Board of Revenue, UP was set up in 1861, much before Allahabad High Court in 1866 and the UP Land Revenue Act, 1901 came into being, even before the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
After Independence in 1947, major land reforms for more equitable redistribution of land amongst the landless labourers were introduced in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), through legislative measures such as the enactment of The UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 and The U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960. Further, legal reforms, in the form a unified Revenue Code2006, which merged nearly 39 separate land related Laws/Acts into a single Act, were implemented subsequently. However, the system for maintenance and upkeep of land records remained almost unchanged since Independence in 1947.
This Case Study details a real life story wherein Mr. Sunil Kumar, an individual from Rural UP, who is in the process of searching, analyzing and buying a land for agricultural purposes, overcomes various roadblocks to ensure smooth acquisition and transfer of appropriate land from the real owner to himself. In this case study, some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
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Issues and Challenges
Mr. Sunil Kumar is a resident of Akbarpur Village in Mawana Tehsil in Meerut. He has been a resident of Akbarpur for more than 35 years and during this time he has seen many disputes arising due to sale/purchase of land to multiple individuals, seller failing to mention that the land is not for agricultural use or manipulation in land records. Sunil currently uses his family land, which was owned and passed on by his grandfather, for agricultural purposes and observed that he can increase his household income by expanding the agricultural operation by purchasing an additional plot.
However, he was reluctant to jump into the system to purchase land because he has seen how his friend Mr. Rakesh Choudhary, also a resident of Akbarpur, was duped by a sly seller named Mr. Roshan Rastogi. Roshan, who was an owner of multiple plots in and around Akbarpur, had used the system for his corrupt purposes and sold the same land to multiple individuals, including Rakesh. Additionally, the land which Roshan sold was not capable of being used for agricultural activities as that plot was a designated shamshan (cremation ground), which unfortunately the buyers had no means to know because of lack of easy accessibility of such records.
Thus, before making a final decision regarding this, Sunil sat with his friend Rakesh in early 2017 to note down what would be the issues or challenges that he would have to face due to the unavailability of any system or portal to provide such required information. He found that there were following issues:
(i) Manual Records: The manual management of records was prone to errors,
both deliberate and otherwise, and their lack of transparency and accessibility resulted in harassment of farmers and common public. The management and upkeep of land records was slow, inefficient and error prone and it was almost impossible to correlate, reconcile, and interlink it with other data bases due to its nature and sheer volume. Manual records were also prone to errors and manipulation by corrupt petty officials which
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lead to innumerable disputes and litigation. The manual data was also extremely difficult to sort or analyse and resulted in erroneous data analysis.
(ii) Lack of Transparency and Accountability: This increased scope of corruption,
as Registry of lands, Mutation, and other paperwork was based on manual reports provided by various officers in the chain. If in the Record of Rights, a mutation of a disputed land was done, it could not be traced back as to whether any officer provided a wrong report or whether the data entry operator made an error in entering data or if any of the persons in this whole chain registered such incorrect mutation in collusion with the buyer or seller of that land.
(iii) Data entry and reconciliation of the data: Considering the size of the State
like U.P. and the sheer volume and size of the data involved, the data entry and its reconciliation with the manual records was a huge challenge. It required a sustained push from the top, with motivated leadership at District and Tehsil level and active involvement of the entire Revenue Administration in the State, who had to do this extra work in addition to their regular duties. It was also important to overcome the resistance and obstacles created by the vested interests, who used to exploit the old corruption prone manual system.
(iv) Registry and Documents: Courts throughout the State had to be convinced
to accept the registry and mutation documents containing digital signature of the Revenue Inspector (Computer), as admissible evidence for cases.
(v) Lack of solutions to secure and validate data: Maintenance of data on
different client servers caused mismatch and errors. The authenticity of data uploaded could not be verified. There were time-lags in integrating the data on different client servers.
(vi) Integration of resources: Shifting to online system meant huge pooling of
resources in terms of digitally literate manpower, financial resources for
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creation of online databases for records of court cases, scanned maps, record of rights etc., setting up the infrastructure for back-end integration of all such databases, arrangement of enough cloud storage space, capacity-building of employed data entry operators to be able to work on the new digital portal and creation of thousands of digital signatures, etc.
Interventions by the Board of Revenue
After listing down all such potential issues, Sunil got sceptical and thought whether he should drop his idea of purchasing land because he will not be able to get a fair and easy buying process due to so many problems. However, Rakesh interjected and mentioned that he has heard of a new project called “Digital Land” (http://upbhulekh.gov.in), which has done a baseline study in which the project conducted a rigorous requirement analysis to understand the proper functioning of Land records and revenue court cases with respect to their digitization.
Additionally, the project representatives had conducted detailed discussions with the relevant stakeholders and studied the manual documents in order to
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understand the complete life cycle of land records and Revenue Court Cases Management System (RCCMS), as well as their inter-dependence.
Sunil, who was unaware of any such project, inquired as to how Rakesh came to know about this. Rakesh mentioned that the project representatives had conducted various seminars on development and functioning of the software for the concerned personnel, and Rakesh by chance was able to attend a seminar conducted for the outreach to the public. In the seminar they mentioned that they have dedicated resources who have conducted department-level training sessions for all the Revenue Officers of State, District and Tehsil levels. Moreover, the department has shared the success stories of various departments with other departments so as to motivate them to participate eagerly and take initiative. Also, a help desk was established at the Board of Revenue, Lucknow, for administrative and technical support to stakeholders.
In the seminar, the representatives also detailed on the technology platform used i.e. all the applications under “Digital Land” project were made functional and hosted on the Meghraj Cloud, after security audit. Also, for ensuring accuracy and authenticity of data, QR Code, Digital Signature, Bar Code etc., were introduced.
After knowing that before the application of this project was initiated, comprehensive and detailed Government Orders, Board Orders and instructions were issued, Sunil was happy and decided to know more about this initiative and restart his land search process using this platform.
“Digital Land” Solution
After the brief description of the “Digital Land” project, Sunil’s confidence to purchase a plot for agricultural purposes was revived. To understand the usability and cost, both Sunil and Rakesh registered for an outreach seminar being conducted in Meerut city by Mrs. Nayanika Malik, a core team member of the
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project. At the seminar, Sunil saw some familiar faces, whom he had met around Akbarpur when he went to various sellers to inquire about their land.
Nayanika began the seminar by introducing herself and her role in the project. Then, Nayanika mentioned that although several other States have also taken significant initiatives for digitisation of Land records, what makes the “Digital Land” project of U.P. unique is the concept of assigning a Unique 16-digit code for each and very field or Revenue plot (Gata) in the State. These Unique codes, which are like Aadhaar number of the plot, have been assigned to each and every Plot (about 7.65 Crore) in U.P. (except for villages under Consolidation or Survey).
The first 6 digits of this Unique code are the Revenue village code of the village where the plot is situated (same as allotted by the Registrar General of India for Census). The next 4 digits (7th to 10th) display the plot number, whereas the subsequent 4 digits (11th to 14th) display the status of its division, etc. The last 2 digits (15th and 16th) display the category of the land.
At present there are only 25 categories of land in U.P. but this list may be further expanded and also standardised to add more categories such as Defence land, Waqf Land, Evacuee property, Enemy property, etc. Such categorisation and standardisation makes it possible to generate a list of all the lands belonging to a particular category that are situated in a designated revenue area. The simplicity of this concept makes it easy for other States too to replicate this concept and adopt it. If the categories are standardised at the national level, then by just one command it would be possible to search, sort and analyse the Land records data of not only U.P. but the entire country.
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Digital Land (Comprehensive System of Land Management)