Digitization of land, still a dream!

Updated: Apr 11, 2012, 12:58 PM IST

Pankaj Sharma and Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ ZRG

Centre’s plan to digitize all land records across states by the end of 12th Plan appears to have run into trouble.

In a startling revelation by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), only eight per cent of the funds allotted for ‘National Land Records Modernization Programme (NLRMP)’ by the Centre were utilized by states by the end of last year.

According to the financial progress report of the NLRMP scheme tabled in Parliament during the Budget Session (through a report of the Standing Committee on Rural Development), about 20 states didn’t use a single penny of their allotted funds by 31st December, 2011 as per an analysis of data beginning 2008.

These states include Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, J&K and Uttarakhand. To get an overview of the usage of funds released, Zee Research Group (ZRG) analyzed last four years’ data, starting 2008.

The main aim of the NLRMP scheme launched four years ago was to develop a modern, comprehensive and transparent land records management system and to implement a conclusive land-titling system with clear title guarantee.

Considering slow usage of funds by the state governments as a “bit of a surprise under current circumstances”, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and social activist Aruna Roy said, “It is ironical that government offices, which continually bemoan shortage of funds and lack of resources, should not use them when they (funds) are available. It certainly reveals a lack of commitment and interest among states but also is a poor reflection on the Centre.”

The analysis revealed that among big states Bihar ranked the best though it too only utilized just about half of the allocated funds. Bihar reported 54 per cent utilization followed by Haryana with 27 per cent under NLRMP. Gujarat and Chhattisgarh reported 16.90 per cent and 16.22 per cent utilization respectively.

However, states like West Bengal and Maharashtra respectively, could only use 5.82 per cent and 3.63 per cent of the allocated funds. Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh stood poorly with 1.40 per cent and 0.55 per cent fund utilization level.

Amar Jyoti Nayak, food and livelihood rights leader at Action Aid India, argued, “The delay in the utilization of funds would adversely impact small land holders who would find the present system of manual land records disadvantageous as it strengthens the nexus between corrupt bureaucrats and land mafias.”

Apart from poor fund utilization in almost all states across India, the land digitization project of the UPA government came in for criticism for its “failure to induct credibility in the realty sector.” Argued activist Roy, “Land reform is a political question, and the politics of land use is still much skewed against the poor, the farmer, and the rural Indian citizen.”