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Land information system — Integrating objectives with users' goals

B. Yerram Raju

LAND information system refers to a well-networked information system covering a wide range of spatial information that includes data on land, water, weather, environment and socio-economic aspects. Growth of population on a static land base always leads to expanded land markets with monopsonic price pressures. Therefore, sourcing tools available under information technology for improving the highly congested land markets becomes imperative. Both administrators and users take recourse to efficient LIS that incorporates data collection, updation, dissemination and distribution. It involves integrating system objectives with users' goals.

Who are users of LIS?

Users refer to categories of people or institutions who share a common interest in a piece of land, be it an individual plot, area under the occupation of a community, a natural conversion area, a region or a country. All interest groups — be it people or institutions — having interest in land are concerned about ownership, rights, restrictions and responsibilities on the land. The government (revenue administration) and the owners and lessees of land, lenders and insurers are the principal users of the LIS.

The Government is in charge of the entire land administration system. It is, therefore, in the legal, social and economic interest of the government to have an efficient LIS.

What are the users' interests?

The user interests invariably lie in the provision of up-to-date, complete and reliable land information in digital form and its speedy and easy accessibility and susceptibility to customisation. LIS products and services should be available across the length and breadth of the country. Security of title is their prime concern. In a business environment, however, the LIS architectures are to be process-oriented, customer-focussed, and optimised in terms of cost, quality, effectiveness and flexibility. It should be functional at the lowest unit of administration at the village level.

When is LIS considered a success?

When LIS could embrace different tenure systems across the country in an effective manner, it will be a success, for land tenure touches the hearts of the people and the latent human feelings of dependency and inter-dependency due to supply constraints. Governments usually apply four criteria to judge the efficacy of the land tenure systems: Equity, compatibility, continuity and efficiency. Efficiency of the system would enable the smooth operation of land markets.

Prerequisites for establishing a good LIS?

Legal, administrative, technical and judicial reforms are crucial and they all impinge on the registration system. Some States such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka kept the following aims for reforms to the registration system:

  • Transparent pricing system;

  • Providing legal protection to rightful claimants of property;

  • Contributing to quick, safe, simple transfer, of establishment or cancellation of rights;

  • Quick and easy delivery of titles registered to the rightful owners.

    Why is it so complicated?

    Nearly 20 registers are being maintained by the Revenue Department, the actual number varying from State to State. Different systems of land management also exist across the States although they broadly fall into the Ryotwari and Inamdari systems. The various registers and records are again known by different names in all these States.

    The principal records are:

    (a) Village maps (Tippans in the erstwhile Nizam's regime which extends to parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra) - this indicates the village and field boundaries in graphic form, not necessarily drawn to any uniform scale;

    (b) Field measurement books (Khasra) — index to the map usually indicates the changes in the field boundaries, their area, particulars of tenure holders, type of irrigation, area under cropping, other uses of land etc; and

    (c) Record of Rights that reflects the names and classes of tenure of all occupants. The ROR by itself was not a title until the State governments passed a separate enactment for the purpose. The diversities in tenure, language differences, cultural practices, methods of field measurement etc., make the exercise of development of suitable software difficult.

    In addition, if the mutations were to be carried out on an on-going basis and these can arise by way of family partitions, gifts, sub-divisions, fragmentations, sale and purchase, then these need authentication and acceptance by the administration and stakeholders respectively. This would mean that necessary data warehousing, firewalls and security would have to be built into the software.

    What should information technology do in LIS?

    It should provide the administration a truly automated land records system, integrating ROR and cadastral maps that should conform to the numerous rules and regulations in vogue;

  • It should provide accuracy and efficiency and eliminate the scope for manipulation and malpractice;

  • It should make the system useful for all the segments of government administration and citizens within the confines of security and confidentiality;

  • It should generate revenues on a self-sustainable basis.

    What should the software on land records do?

    It should integrate the textual RORs, cadastral maps, other documents maintained by various revenue officials that together forms the LIS, regional language output, geographical information system tools that operate on digital maps and data conversion, cleaning, updation and audit. It should provide for adequate user-defined security for the entire data and facilitate access by all citizens with convenience and ease of operation. It should incorporate a rule-based engine that accommodates all the existing rules in their various permutations and combinations. It should be in a position to carry out all the types of mutations such as partitioning, gift, sale, subdivision on-line from the village to the sub-registry.

    Why should the software provide for linkage with sub-registry?

    It is a well-known fact that most of the transactions on land take place through registration of documents at the district/sub-registrar's office. The sale of land involves change of ownership. Unless this change is reflected in the ROR, the land records do not represent the factual position. Usually, till such time either of the parties affected in the mutation request for it, the change is not incorporated. It is common experience that ownership and possession are at variance as a consequence. Therefore, any software on the LIS should provide for carrying out the transactions in registry offices.

    Who will benefit?

    The village administrative officers (Patwaris/Karnams)

  • These grassroots level functionaries can generate all their records such as the ROR, field measurement books, field map registers with the click of a mouse and also carry out mutations on-line. Real-time and verifiable outputs are generated for use of the higher level revenue administration that will help them in resolving all land disputes with case and speed.

    The citizens

  • Land holding data in native language together with the field map is available for the citizens at affordable cost and at higher revenues for the State.

  • Transparency of records will help the farmers' access to credit from the lending agencies and insurance for the crops grown by them.

    Land data can be integrated with the citizenship data and commercial data so that at one kiosk the citizen can access a birth or death certificate, nativity and caste certificates, payment systems for various facilities ties that the government provides, information for crop planning and management by the farmers in due course with marginal self-generated investments.

    (The author is former Dean of Studies, ASCI, Hyderabad.)

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