General Studies Paper 3 (Indian Economy): Digitisation of Land Record



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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 (Indian Economy)


 Discuss the of land reforms carried out in India since independence ? Do you think digitisation of land record is the most crucial land reform that can be undertaken in the present age? (250 words)



Land reforms can be defined as reforms of institutional factors related to land. The term ‘land reforms’ has two different senses. In a narrow sense, land reforms are concerned with those reforms related to land ownership and land holdings. But in a broad sense, the term ‘land reforms’ is used to mean those measures of reforms necessary to raise agricultural productivity which include reforms relating to fixation of rent on land, abolition of intermediaries, credit and marketing arrangements etc.



There is a great need for land reforms in a country like India where majority of its population is still depending on agriculture. One of the main reasons behind the backwardness of Indian agriculture is the defective land policy followed in the country.

Nearly two-thirds of all pending cases in Indian courts are related to property disputes. NITI Aayog has said that such property cases take an average of 20 years to settle. The result is that millions of Indians cannot use their principal asset as collateral to borrow from the formal financial system. Hence the need for land reforms in India.



Land reforms in India can be broadly divided as

  • Institutional reforms (1947-1960)
  • Technological reforms (1960 onwards.)

1. Institutional reforms:

Institutional reforms started soon after independence and continued till the early 1960s focussed on the following features:

  • Abolition of intermediaries like zamindars, jagirdars, etc.
  • Tenancy reforms involving providing security of tenure to the tenants, decrease in rents and conferment of ownership rights to tenants
  • Ceilings on size of landholdings
  • Cooperativization and community development programmes.

2. Technological reforms:

The second phase beginning around the mid- or late 1960s saw the gradual ushering in the field of Green Revolution.


Factors responsible for poor performance of land Reforms.

▪ Incomplete Land Records:

Land records collected by the state Governments were incomplete. This has been creating difficulties in determining the ownership of land, leading to implementation of land reforms difficult.

▪ Faults in Legislation:

The legislation enacted for land reforms in India had  certain built-in faults. These includes—unsatisfactory definition of personal cultivation; unlimited retention of land for personal cultivation, large-scale transfer of land by the Zamindars to their family members leading to a large scale evasion of land ceiling law; inadequate definition of tenant from the point of view of tenancy reform

·       Litigation:

The faults and defects in laws related to land reforms have resulted in growing number of litigations which has dampened the spirit of reforms and has also delayed its implementation.

·       Ineffective Implementation:

Another important reason behind the poor performance of land reforms is the lack of effective implementation of these measures. Due to this reason, the abolition of zamindari system was delayed and imposition of ceiling on land holdings could not derive a satisfactory result.

·       Bureaucratic Obstacles:

Bureaucratic obstacles are also another impediment in the path of implementation of land reform measures in India. The rich peasant power is dominating in every layer of Government and they are subverting the land reforms in such a manner that the implementation of land reform measures is becoming more and more difficult.

·       Uncoordinated:

The land reform policy in India is being implemented at a slow pace and also in a much uncoordinated manner leading to a total delay in implementing the reforms.



Need for digitization

  • In the past, most of the land records in the country were through village maps marking boundaries and/or paper records which included names of all occupants.
  • Due to the lack of maintenance of actual land records, there have been litigations and property scams. One of the biggest challenges faced was the land ownership issue which led to property disputes.
  • Hence, making land records available to all to check property frauds became one of the objectives of the Government of India around late 80s.
  • To address the same, the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) was launched by the government of India in August 2008.


The objective of the programme DILRMP

  • To streamline and reduce the scope of land and property disputes, thereby improving transparency in the maintenance of land records.
  • Digitization of land records was introduced to computerize all land records including mutations, improve transparency in the land records maintenance system, digitize maps and survey, update all settlement records and minimizes the scope of land disputes.


Advantages  of digitization:

  • Modernize management of land records, minimize scope of land/property disputes, enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system, and facilitate moving eventually towards guaranteed conclusive titles to immovable properties in the country. 
  • Transparency brought through digitization of land records will make it difficult for the general public to evade property tax.
  • Planning of industrialization and smart cities by the government will become easier.
  • The government’s initiation towards digitization will not only speed up the process of land acquisition but will also help in building up of local revenues through property tax billing and collection and also by providing conclusive titles to land owners.
  • RERA has taken up the initiative of being transparent about real estate projects
  • Development of infrastructure to support national growth will also require litigation-free land for commercial and residential use.
  • Greater ease of doing business in the sector, by making it simpler for the developers and buyers to check the authenticity of the land or the property.
  • Digitisation of land and property records, will also directly boost the government’s Digital India mission.
  • A complete computerised compilation of land data, starting from the original owner to the present status of land, including an image of the property and the landowner for identification purposes, will  reveal the total area of land owned by a person.
  • For home buyers, digitisation will offer the correct details of the owner of a particular property. The buyer can also check if the land is under litigation. If a buyer wants to buy a property from a developer, he or she can check if the building has adhered to all the regulations.


Role of states government in implementation of digitization process.

  • Karnataka was the first state in India to computerize land records under the “Bhoomi Project” followed by Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the year 2001. By the year 2007, the three states had their village property records computerized.
  • The Rajasthan legislature passed the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act. This law ensures that the state government is a guarantor for land titles in Rajasthan, and will provide compensation in case of issues of defective title. The guarantee is based on certification provided by the Urban Land Title Certification Authority, which will verify ownership of any property for a fee.
  • Andhra Pradesh :- Its state government has tied up with a Swedish firm to use new block chain technology to prevent property fraud. As in all other trades, block chain will allow participants in a distributed ledger to check the ownership of a land parcel.


Reasons for slow pace in implementation of DILRMP

  • Many states still do not have the means to survey lands. Some lands have not been surveyed for more than 100 years.
  • Though the government wants complete digitization of land records, due to lack of clear and sufficient data and mismanagement between the various agencies handling land records, the data registered at various government levels (e.g. village and district) is not identical.
  • Various types of information like property maps and sale deeds are maintained by different departments at the village level. Most of the times, these departments work in silo and lack training on digital access.


Way forward:

  • An online or digital record department could also be established for the betterment of online land records maintenance.
  • This could also be outsourced to third parties who can assist in the maintenance. States can also consult and take feedback from developers on the main topics of sourcing, tracking, executing various land records.
  • This will enhance people’s trust in the real estate business, where the land records going digital will lead to transparency and reduce time in document procurement.
  • Registered property title documents should be provided by the government as evidence of ownership to support the real estate industry through faster transactions and completion of projects.
  • The government should ensure that the existing land records should be free of any encumbrances. It must include the site plans, exact location, projected look, owner ship details, Khata details sharing property tax and other cesses payable on the property.
  • More than 60% of civil suits in the country are related to property disputes. Clear land titles will not only cut this expenditure but accelerate the pace of new projects, thus reducing costs.
  • At regular intervals, a fresh survey of every parcel of land to update records will help everyone in purchasing, transferring and selling land, giving deeds, and easing all kinds of land transactions with the press of a button.



Digitization of land records will minimize scope of land/property disputes, enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system., helps in transparent land records management with a single window to handle land records which will include maintenance and updation of maps, survey and registration of property. Land Records digitization can help accelerate India’s GDP by as much as 1.3%.  Digitization will also make both domestic and cross-border transactions time-bound with the click of a button.


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