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‘Digitising land records key to reform’

business Updated: May 01, 2007 03:04 IST
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Post-computerisation, Maharashtra's stamp duty collections more than doubled from Rs 1,624 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 4,137 crore in 2004-05. This happened despite the fact that stamp duty was cut from 13 per cent to eight per cent.

And now a World Bank study has endorsed the computerisation of land deeds in the state saying India’s fragmented and overvalued land market could benefit from computerisation.

Citing the example of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, the soon-to-be released report titled India: Land Policies for Growth and Poverty Reduction, says that computerised registration of land deeds has helped realise large benefits.

Acquiring or selling land, especially agricultural land, has been a vexing issue in India, mired in ancient laws, bureaucratic red tape and issues of rights. Many tribal people, for instance, live and work on land without clear ownership.

A 2001 McKinsey Global Institute report had said that “land-market distortions account for close to 1.3 per cent of lost growth a year, but largely remain excluded from public debate. …Most land parcels in India — 90 per cent by one estimate — are subject to legal disputes over their ownership.”

The World Bank study draws on a review of land records, survey and settlement, and registration in 14 states over 1982-99, as well as a nationwide survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers that was completed last year.

Land is so fragmented in India that a 3.3 million sq km area is divided into 500 million parcels, the highest in the world. Compare this to the other extreme — Australia, where only 11 million parcels are on 7.6 million sq km.

And 28 per cent of these Indian parcels are locked in disputes in peri-urban areas (areas on the periphery of an urban centre).

Computerising records saved Karnataka Rs 80 crore of bribes and Rs 6.6 crore of waiting time per year, the report asserts.

Computerisation has increased the number of registered land transfers and begun yielding a good revenue income to the states.

Also, by creating an easily accessible registry, it has helped make the land administration system cheaper, secure and flexible, the report said.

Land revenue income of states had steadily declined until the 1980s, from 30 per cent of total revenue in 1957-58 to only 1.67 per cent in 1990. But, post-computerisation, for instance, like in Maharashtra, stamp duty collections shot up significantly.

The state has also scanned 100 per cent of its village maps and Karnataka and Gujarat are following suit.

The study cautions that the process is not yet complete. Although 12 out of the 14 states in the sample had digitised more than 85 per cent of their textual records, only five had banned the use of manual records.

The study says that unless manual records are banned, there is a chance that computerised records will not be properly maintained.