It is true that direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes for farmers would allow the government to better target resources. But for its effective implementation, it is necessary to know the rightful owners of land.
In India, no state has validated records of its farmers as land titles are not digital.
The PM-KISAN scheme announced in the previous Budget which promised ₹6,000 a year to all farmers (with land titles), has been receiving flak on grounds that the benefits have been going to fake beneficiaries in many states. Further, the amount set aside for the scheme has not been fully spent because beneficiaries have not been traceable.
Any DBT scheme for farmers will face the same fate as PM-KISAN unless the government sorts out the mess on land titles.
Until 40 or 50 years ago, sale of land was done through word of mouth or on a slip of paper and was not registered. So, there is no record of these transactions with the government today. Now, as a DBT scheme starts to disburse money, while one farmer may be the rightful owner of the land, his name may not be in the land title and descendants of the previous owner may get it.
It is high time that the Centre focuses on updating land records.
No validated record
The National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) which started in 2008 and moved under Digital India initiative of the Centre in 2014, has still not completed computerisation of land records in rural India. Even in villages where land titles are digital, there is still a lot of litigation, as ownership has not been verified. A case in point here is of Telangana. Complaints have been pouring in every day on mistakes in the pattadar passbooks (with cases of land titles in wrong names and record of lesser than original area in the passbook) issued by Dharani ― the State’s integrated land and revenue records portal. There has been violence and bloodshed in the State over disputes in land titles in the last three months.
Pouring through the all-India data on digital records, this is what BusinessLine found:
Of the 6.65 lakh villages in the country, 5.91 lakh have digitised their land records. If you think this is a good job, wait. In two states ― Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya ― the land records digitisation process hasn’t even started yet. In Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram and Manipur, 75-90 per cent of land records are still physical. In Kerala, only 43 per cent of all villages have computerised their land records.
Even villages where land records have been digitised, are as of today, not ready for DBT schemes, as land records have not been updated and legal owners of land are not known.
From among 5.91 lakh villages, mutation (transfer of ownership) records have been computerised in only 3.88 lakh.
The survey/re-survey work which validates the land records data, has been finished only in 12 per cent of the villages.
Further, only in 33,569 villages, record of rights (a record that shows how rights on land are derived for the land owner) has been linked to Aadhaar.
No digital mapping
Maps that tell the land boundaries for each farm holding have to be also digitised.
Maps of all villages put together stand at 1.24 crore. Of this, 1.16 crore are in good condition and 66.5 lakh have been computerised so far. Maps have been linked to record of rights only in 33 per cent of the villages. The spatial data has been verified only in 45 per cent of the villages.