A comprehensive digital mapping of rural land categories — agricultural, residential and commons — will help raise rural productivity and incomes in various ways. Individual farmers are not able to take land on lease, or confidently lease out land. Availability of institutional credit is constrained by the absence of proper land records. While the digitisation of land meant for agricultural purposes has been completed to the extent of almost 90 per cent, covering 5.91 lakh out of the 6.60 lakh villages in India, demarcating residential properties remains an issue. The digitisation of agricultural land records has contributed to the smooth implementation of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. However, the provision of common amenities is impacted by the lack of demarcation of property owned in the villages. Panchayats are unable to collect their due share of property tax from residential parcels. The Economic Survey 2017-18 said that the house tax collections of ‘rural local governments’ or panchayats is 20 per cent “relative to potential” (all India), with the southern States doing better in this respect. With clear titles and transparent land valuations, these collections could improve.

The Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas (SVAMITVA) seeks to address these problems. The plan is to survey all rural properties using drones and prepare GIS-based maps for each village. The process begins with the signing of an MoU between the Survey of India (SoI) and the State government concerned. The SoI will use technology for topographical mapping, including satellite imageries and drone platforms. During this financial year, the scheme will be implemented as a pilot in about one lakh villages across eight States — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. SVAMITVA aims to cover all 6.60 lakh villages in the country by 2023-24. After physical verification and dispute resolution, property cards or “ sampatti patrak ” will be made available on digital platforms or as hard copies to the village household owners.

Digitisation of personal identity and agriculture land, and now residential property in rural areas through SVAMITVA, will facilitate transparent transactions in land parcels. Non-farm related activities will benefit from clear title and the removal of land supply constraints. According to NITI Aayog’s March 2016 report on land leasing, 36 per cent of the tenant farmers are landless and 56 per cent are marginal land owners. Clear title records, accompanied by legalisation of land leasing, will improve their access to credit, insurance and support services. With digital records, banks can lend freely without much documentation. Formal lease markets and digitisation of personal records can lead to improved implementation of schemes such as PM-KISAN, Fasal Bima Yojana and Rythu Bandhu. These can be directed towards the cultivators, instead of absentee landlords. The main challenge for SVAMITVA is to ensure Centre-State coordination and smooth working of dispute settlement systems.