To: Department of Revenue, Government of Karnataka
Date: 4 January 2021
RE: Debottlenecking and Re-calibrating Land Record Management Systems during COVID 19.
The Revenue Department is recommended to protect kiosk centre by reducing its revenue share, facilitate remote access of land records and organise remote crop survey. The restriction on movement and physical interaction was identified as the root cause of COVID 19 induced barriers in land record management. The study conducted to arrive at the recommendation corresponds with the structure of the memo. It was initiated with analysis of legacy and operational systems followed by problem identification and solution building. The solution are then tested on feasibility based on literature review and data sourced from National Family Health Survey and Digital India Land Record Management Programme. The limitation of the solution are explored at the end.
Legacy Schemes and Evolution
Efficient land record management and procurement system is an important indicator for investors and businesses. As the Indian market gradually opened post economic liberalisation push of 1991, reforms in land records keeping were inevitable. The then manual systems of land records in Karnataka relied on approximately 9,000 Village Accountant trained in book keeping. They maintained records in two registers — A register with details of ownership, crop pattern and area, and another with maps depicting boundaries of land parcels. Though the content of these registers were similar across the state, methods of recording data varied. The information was inconsistent. Any mutation or new registration of land processed through the village accountants and Revenue Inspector was prone to deliberate malfunctions. Low rate of literacy supplemented the possibility of malpractices.
In order to assist markets and redeem itself of the inefficiencies of the existing system, a central sector land record digitisation scheme was initiated in 1991 through a pilot. On the success of the pilot project, the scheme was expanded to all the districts of Karnataka. However, the scope of malpractices reduced, it wasn’t eliminated since the recordings were still performed manually at tehsils with only a few computers working as centralised digital registers. The design flaw proved fatal for the scheme, it was discontinued in 1999.
By the year 2000, the Government of Karnataka launched Bhoomi — A Land Record Computerisation Project — with an objective to digitise all the existing Rights, Tenancy and Crop inspection (RTC) records and make it available in the public domain through Kiosk centres. As of April 2019, there were approximately 200, 900 and 6,000 kiosk centre at tehsil, sub-tehsil and gram panchayat level respectively. All the operations at these kiosk centre including mutation are carried out as per Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964 and KLR Rules of 1966.
In 2008, the Government of India initiated National Land Record Modernisation Programme by merging two centrally sponsored scheme — Computerisation of Land Records (CLR) and Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updation of Land Records (SRA&ULR). It was introduced as a centrally sponsored scheme with 100% central funding for digitisation of land records and capacity building for all states, 90% and 50% central funding for survey/resurvey activities and modern record room for north eastern and non- north eastern states, and 25% central funding for digitisation of registration process. The scheme was revamped in April 2016 into a central sector scheme called Digital India Land Record Modernisation Programme (DILRMP). The scheme works on the Expenditure Advance Transfer mechanism with 30% of funds released initially and the rest as reimbursement. It aims to build an integrated land information management system across the country.
Traditionally, the Urban Local Bodies in Karnataka manages property tax records on a register called ‘Khata’. However, these tax receipts aren’t sanctioned as legal document to claim property ownership. The Karnataka Land Revenue Act. 1964, under section 63, provided for a property card to be treated as legal document to justify ownership. To implement the provisions of property cards, the Settlement and Land Record department initiated Urban Property Ownership Records framework in December. 2009 across multiple Municipal Corporations to preserve existing records and prepare map of all non-agricultural land in the state.
Impact of COVID 19 on Land Record Management
The government response to containing the spread of the novel corona virus has restricted movements and reduced physical interaction. These inevitable restriction will induce the following difficulties:
- Most kiosk centre are bound to lose revenue due to prolong period of shutdown and lower frequency of visitors.
- The facilities of kiosk centre would be denied to a faction of population living in remote location or high spread zone as identified by the local administration. Both, users and employees dependent on kiosk centre would be at loss.
- The influence of the virus has stretched into the kharif season. Most crops supported under the provisions of Minimum Support Price are kharif crops with a large number of farmers dependent on their efficient procurement. The advance procurement planning and survey as a precursor to final procurement couldn’t be conducted at a large scale. On the other hand, the existing land use records with the Bhoomi database was graded low on quality in the recently published National Council of Applied Economics Research Land Record and Service Index (N-LRSI) 2020. An accurate survey is essential, however, it is not feasible under the restriction.
- In the absence of reliable land survey, banks will hold credit flow to the farmers due to higher associated risk on return.
- Excessive loss of income and substantial reverse migration will increase the pressure on land. The price of land may fall due to increased supply of land, while the kiosk centre may get flooded with requests of mutations increasing the risk of spread.
Recommendation to mitigate the impact of COVID 19
- Protect land market from stagnation and sustain the viability of kiosk centre
- As an unprecedented move, the Government of Karnataka must reduce or redeem its share of revenue from the kiosk centre operating under PPP model. It will help in compensating for the revenue lost during lockdown. It will also increase the per visitor effective profit for the centres.
- Instead of complete shutdown of kiosk centre, it is recommended to open them on fixed days in a week with strict observation of physical distancing as defined under COVID 19 guidelines. Karnataka has a decentralised and distributed network of e-governance offices through schemes like Bhoomi and Nemmadi. Land record management could be performed locally without even inter panchayat movement.
- Facilitate Remote Access of Bhoomi Database
The Revenue Department must push to expand the utility of Dishaank application by integrating it with Bhoomi database. The Dishaank application is compatible with multiple mobile operating system and records highest number of unique users per day for among all state government applications. In addition to existing records, RTC records could be shared with remote user through Dishaank.
- Collaborate to execute remote crop survey
The Revenue Department must reach out to partner with Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, National Informatics Centre and Centre for Development of Advance Computing to organise drone led advance survey of kharif crops. The images along with latest satellite imagery could be processed to prepare digital records of cropping pattern. It will assist in advance procurement planning and reduce the risk associated with credits to farmers. This could be done under the mandate of DILRMP.
Feasibility and Stakeholder Analysis
Limitations of Recommended Actions
At a time when government deficit has mounted and tax collection diminished, the recommended action are cost intensive in the short run. However, if executed well, it will provide significant returns in the long run.
The recommendation to facilitate remote access of Bhoomi database through Dishaank application may benefit a faction of the population since differential accessibility based on demography, geography and gender persists. The latest National Family Health Survey data recorded only 50.1% and 24.8% of women have used internet at least once in urban and rural area respectively. The same indicators recorded 71.5% and 55.6% for men.