Sunday, July 14, 2024

Digitization of Land Records: A Catalyst for Accelerating Infrastructure Projects and Combating Poverty

In a momentous stride, the government has successfully integrated the digital land records of 13 major states and four Union territories (UTs) into the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan. This initiative aims to streamline coordination between central ministries, states, and UTs for infrastructure development. With data from only six states and one UT awaiting integration, the completion of this digital integration under Gati Shakti is poised to streamline project implementation, reducing both time and costs by providing seamless data access to stakeholders.

Launched in 2021, Gati Shakti is an ambitious scheme designed to ensure multi-modal connectivity throughout the country, encompassing various sectors such as roads, railways, aviation, and agriculture. The primary objective is to dismantle departmental silos and establish comprehensive planning for stakeholders engaged in major infrastructure projects.

Effective execution of new projects hinges on clarity regarding land ownership and value, elements challenging to ascertain without clear land titles. Unclear ownership records pose a risk to infrastructure investments, as structures built on such lands could face legal challenges. The government’s encouragement of private sector investments in these projects underscores the importance of accurately recorded land titles.

The significance of converting land records into a digital format extends beyond facilitating project implementation. Lack of proper land records is often a root cause of poverty and corruption in the real estate sector. Land and housing constitute the primary assets of the poor, and the inability to establish legal ownership exposes them to exploitation and impedes their escape from poverty. Renowned economist Hernando De Soto argues that the poor in developing countries lack access to formal credit not due to a lack of assets but because they lack proper property documentation that could be used as collateral.

Apart from hindering efficient real estate markets, unclear land titles contribute to related costs arising from title disputes and litigation, fostering an environment of opacity in property dealings. The completion of the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme, with the allocation of a unique 14-digit land parcel ID number based on geo-coordinates, is expected to enhance transparency and alleviate the backlog of court cases related to land disputes.

However, the transition to a more efficient digital registration system is imperative. The existing Registration Act of 1908, a colonial-era law relying on physical documents, needs to be replaced. Given technological advancements, successful digitization, and widespread Aadhaar adoption, a shift to a more streamlined digital registration process is not only possible but essential for ushering in a new era of efficiency in property transactions.

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