Land records: why the 2022-2023 budget announcements are essential

Land registries facilitate a favorable business climate and a competitive land/residential market, provided that correct information on key aspects of land is available. India has been striving to manage and digitize land records since the late 1980s. However, several shortcomings remain, deserving further attention and action. Given these needs, there appears to be a push to improve land records in Budget 2022-32.

In 2008, the central government launched the National Land Registry Modernization Programme. This program was revamped in 2014 under the Digital India initiative as the Digital Land Records Modernization Program (DI-LRMP). The program and its revamped version aimed to establish an accurate and comprehensive land registration system in India.

States have made progress in digitizing land records under the DI-LRMP. However, there is a long way to go when it comes to the accuracy of the records. This was evidenced by the joint pilot evaluation of the impact of the program by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research and the National Institute of Public Finance and politics of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. For example, fieldwork for selected plots of land in one of the tehsils of Himachal Pradesh showed a 34% variation between the situation on the ground and the online records of land ownership.

Building on this foundation of learnings developed from the pilot assessment, NCAER developed India’s first Land Registration and Service Index (N-LRSI) in India in 2020. Two rounds of exercises since then highlight the difference in pace at which improvements in the digitization and quality of land records occur.

Between NLRSI-2020 and NLRSI 2021, the extent of digitization of land records improved by 20%; however, quality improvement has not kept pace, posting an 8.6% increase. This clearly underscores the need to address the inherent problems of the land registration system in India.

In this regard, some of the announcements made in the 2022-2023 budget are welcome.

Using kisan drones to digitize land records can help limit area/boundary variations between land records and the situation on the ground. Drones have been instrumental in providing accurate land records and are a key driver of the SVAMITVA program which aimed to create property records for inhabited parts of rural areas. However, it would be helpful if the kisan drone initiative also seeks to establish a recourse mechanism to deal with any complaints regarding variations in the drone mapping process.

A plan for “One Nation One Registration Software” was announced, which should be integrated into the already existing National Generic Document Registration System (NGDRS).

NGDRS has already been rolled out in around 12 States/UTs such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Jharkhand and assists property registrations including processes such as online property registration and uploading relevant documents and taking online appointment with the SRO for registration of documents.

Administered by the Land Resources Department of the Ministry of Rural Development, NGDRS is a common, generic and configurable application developed for the state registration departments of India. This approach is intended to ensure a uniform registration and “registration anywhere” process for deeds and documents. This announcement should provide a transparent and centralized registration process and remove barriers to registration in all states, potentially improving the overall intensity of real estate transactions.

Although standardization is welcome, it is essential to prepare a plan for compensating states in the event of loss of revenue in the collection of stamp duties and registration fees. In addition, policies should be designed to secure the states’ share of central revenue collection to facilitate improved state-level infrastructure for managing land records, similar to the land tax framework. goods and services.

Finally, the budget announcement proposes to adopt the Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) to digitize land records and link this number to Aadhaar.

This linkage is an important step in ensuring the accuracy of land records and will help control fraudulent transactions. In addition, the budget proposed a plan to provide a transliteration service in all Annex VIII languages. This is a welcome move, as the availability of land records in regional languages ​​is a significant impediment to potential investments or transactions between states.

This was also a key suggestion that had been put forward to improve the accessibility of records as part of the NLRSI 2021 exercise, given that none of the states/UTs in the country currently have land records in more of a language.

Overall, the 2022-23 budget reflects the government’s recognition of improving the quality of land records, the transparency of registration processes, the standardization of registration processes and ensuring accessibility. Addressing these factors will go a long way in reducing the intensity of land transactions, often seen as a major hurdle in the Indian market by potential investors.

However, the implementation of these policies would require close coordination between central government and local government at the state level to ensure their effectiveness.

Prerna Prabhakar is an associate member of the National Council for Applied Economic Research

The opinions expressed in this article are personal.

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