Digital Jharkhand – start from land records digitization


When I visit Bokaro and go around places outside the city area, one thing that strikes me is how digital Jharkhand will look like. The extent of urbanization in the state is abysmally low compared to the rest of the country and majority of urbanization is only centered around few cities. The question is how can one create a digital infrastructure which will enable large parts of population on-boarded on a digital highway and start two-way communication with the government. Mobile phones are ubiquitous and smart phones are becoming more and more popular. The digital data usage by mobile companies are increasing which means more and more population is using mobile phones to access internet; and they use it for different purposes – be it communication or entertainment. But is this enough and can that be called start of digital Jharkhand?

Where to get started?

In my view, until large part of the population is able to connect to the government through a digital highway, the true digitization cannot happen. With that assumption, the big question is – where should be the starting point for the government of Jharkhand given that large part of population is rural and dependent on primary economy. I feel land is one thing which concerns every one and the information and transactions related to land is the largest transaction that citizens have to do with the government. If all the communications related to land that happens between the citizens and the government are enabled through digital highway and the citizens are enabled to use that, the true digital Jharkhand will be achieved.
        Land related information exchange between citizens and the government happens for completing buy and sell transactions or retrieving information related to land or paying land related fees etc. in terms of volume of information to be managed, land records involve one of the most voluminous information exchange. In terms of disputes and conflicts, it is the information related to land which figure maximum compared to any other category of disputes. Jharkhand is in a special situation where land related records have maximum complications due to the fact that during carve-out of state from erstwhile Bihar, the records were not transferred properly. Jharkhand is also in a special situation because the land ownership structure has high complexity due to tribal and non-tribal segments of ownership. Most of these challenges will be ameliorated if the land records are digitized and the information is made accessible through web or mobile. This project, in my view, will have maximum return on any investment and will bring the government closer to people. On top of that the project will be true example of “minimum government maximum governance”.
If we look at why this will be a boon to the citizens few things come to immediate mind

Land record availability

Many times we have seen that extracting old land records from historical files takes huge amount of time. Some of these historic files have also been the victim of termites and decays. Not only maintaining records in traditional system is very costly, it is time consuming, waste of human resources, public harassment, and also creates bad reputation for the government.
There are many disadvantages of unorganized File Management System and the foremost is land record availability. Finding the correct file can be very time consuming if the land records are not properly organized. If someone accidentally puts a file in the wrong place, or takes a file out of a cabinet and forgets to put it back, it can lead to lost data or the creation of additional copies of files. Maintaining land record filing system electronically will allow the user to quickly check details whether the requested information already exists somewhere in the system or not. It will also help to avoid the problems of redundant files and data loss in addition to minimizing access time.

Integrity of records

Integrity of a record is directly related to the ability to prove that a record is authentic and unaltered. Authenticity requires proof that a document comes from the person, organization, or other legal entity claiming to be its author or authorizing authority. The integrity of records is very important factor because if the various departments do not communicate with each other regularly many issues might arise. For example, if the changes made in land registration file are not updated in the land revenue department files then effective changes will be void. Similarly, it is important for all local survey offices to share their data with other departments wherever required. Keeping this in mind, there can be three major issues affecting integrity of records which are discussed below:-
Security of Records – Maintaining land records only in paper format threatens security.  The paper files can be lost in fires, floods or any other natural disaster. It is therefore important to keep the important land records in digital formats. This electronic data is easy to backup and can also be stored in multiple locations. This will increase integrity of land records and reduce the potential for permanent data loss.
Complex Communication System – Land is a precious asset for the people and the government and maintaining information about ownership, land value, registration, etc. is equally important. The present system involves a long and unnecessary communication channel which is nothing but loss of precious manpower. Whenever someone queries any details from the land revenue department he has to wait for until the query reaches respective authority and then following similar line of communication the data will be passed on to public. This entire process takes unnecessary time and digitization of land record system will minimize the time requirement in processing to mere few seconds.

Duplicate Records

One core cause of poor data quality is duplicate records. A duplicate record not only creates confusion but they also human efforts. Conflicting data prevents the department from gaining a single, accurate view.
It is not only the citizens that will benefit from the digitization of land records, the government will also benefit by being able to serve the people better and by having huge amount of data to analyse for policy making.

Data Visualization and analysis

When land records are kept only in paper formats it will not be possible to do quick and large analysis and create visualizations. The visualization should be both from data extraction perspective and also from data analysis perspective. To illustrate this matter consider a simple scenario where a general citizen wants to know the registration details of a particular plot of land. The basic information that the system must extract should include the property statistics, ownership structure, valuation, registered date, and present owner. Also if the government wants to analyze the average holding size of plots in any areas, it should be provided with all the information related to land holding. Data analysis is an indispensable part of all applied research and problem solving in industry. The most fundamental data analysis approaches are visualization (histograms, scatter plots, surface plots, tree maps, parallel coordinate plots, etc.), statistics (hypothesis test, regression, etc.), data mining and machine learning methods (like clustering, classification, decision trees, etc.). The digital information is huge source of intelligence for government which can be used for planning purposes.
In summary I think, government of Jharkhand should immediately start on a state wide plan for automating the way it provides land related information to its citizens. Everyone should be able to access the information related to their land, receive registration certificated, land ownership deed etc. through the web. This will usher in an era where government will be closer to the citizen and citizen will not be for government but government will be for citizens.

Some examples 

Karnataka was the first state to complete the land record digitization followed by Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The government is now able to use the land record for several government schemes using the records. Government has issued land property cards and crop insurance.  Some of the fundamental benefits of land records management data base are following-
• Transparent land record management.
• A single window to handle land records, including maintenance and updation of
   maps, survey and registration of properties.
• Easier online approvals of plans and occupancy certificates.
• Clarity over ownership status.
• Greater ease of doing business in the sector, by making it simpler for the
   developers and buyers to check the authenticity of the land or the property.

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