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Evaluation of Computerisation of Land Records in Karnataka

Evaluation of Computerisation of Land Records in Karnataka

Computerisation of land records can solve many of the multiple problems that affect the system in rural India. As this case study of computerisation in Gulbarga district of Karnataka shows, farmers benefit in many ways - the record of rights of tenancy and cultivation is immediately accessible, online mutation keeps the records current, there is greater transparency and the system is less prone to manipulation. However, as the case study shows, computerisation is no panacea. There are operational problems arising from power breakdowns that lead to delays and the long distances farmers have to travel to obtain certificates result in very limited net savings to farmers. Besides, computerisation does not seem to aid land reforms. The field survey did not find a single case of tenancy or surplus land that had been unearthed by computerisation.

Evaluation of Computerisation of Land Records in Karnataka A Study from Gulbarga District

Computerisation of land records can solve many of the multiple problems that affect the system in rural India. As this case study of computerisation in Gulbarga district of Karnataka shows, farmers benefit in many ways – the record of rights of tenancy and cultivation is immediately accessible, online mutation keeps the records current, there is greater transparency and the system is less prone to manipulation. However, as the case study shows, computerisation is no panacea. There are operational problems arising from power breakdowns that lead to delays and the long distances farmers have to travel to obtain certificates result in very limited net savings to farmers. Besides, computerisation does not seem to aid land reforms. The field survey did not find a single case of tenancy or surplus land that had been unearthed by computerisation.

MANOJ AHUJA, A P SINGH

A
pplication of information technology to government functions can lead to better governance. Nearly 63 per cent of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture. Land records therefore affect the largest number of people in our country. These records are required for a variety of purposes like security of tenure, seeking crop loans, bail in criminal cases, planning purposes, etc. With the objective of streamlining the maintenance and updating of land records, the ministry of rural development sanctioned a scheme for computerisation of land records (CoLR) in 1991 in many states, and the scheme was implemented with the assistance of the National Informatics Centre (NIC). The progress made in different states has been uneven. But in Karnataka, the progress is remarkable. Karnataka has 67 lakh owners of rural land spread across 177 talukas in nearly 30,000 villages. Together they account for 20 million records of records of rights, tenancy and cultivation (RTC). A printed copy of the RTC can be obtained online from acomputerised land record kiosk (Bhoomi centres) in 177 taluka offices after paying a fee of Rs 15. The state government legally abolished all hand written records after the implementation of this project. Karnataka’s CoLR programme has attracted widespread recognition in the country as well as internationally.

CoLR in Karnataka

Computerisation of land records in Karnataka started in 1991 when the first pilot was initiated in Gulbarga through the centrally sponsored CoLR. By 1996, projects for computerisation of land records were sanctioned for all districts in the state of Karnataka. However, earlier efforts failed to achieve the required objectives of creating a clean, up to date database. Later after assessing the earlier efforts, the state government decided that all talukas should be computerised by March 2002.

Now, due to the massive efforts of the revenue department of the state, Karnataka’s 67 lakh farmers can access 20 million land records at all 177 talukas of the state through the Bhoomi e-governance project. This software has been designed by NIC, Bangalore. The first RTC information kiosk centre started in Maddur taluka of Mandya district on February 6, 2001. An amendment made to the Karnataka Land Revenue Act 1964 by the state government recognises only the land records and RTCs duly signed by the authorised signatory will be valid for all legal purposes and manually written RTCs will have no legal validity. The state government has gazetted the notification in this regard and the amended Karnataka Land Revenue (Amendment) Rules, 2002 have come into force from June 13, 2002. Prior to this, the computer held information had been given legal sanctity. For this the government issued taluka-wise notifications when the new system became fully operational in a particular taluka. The notification declared that only computer generated RTC’s duly signed by the authorised signatory would be valid for all purposes.

The government of Karnataka is claiming the following benefits of the computerised land record system for the farmers: (i) They at once get all necessary records whenever they need them without having to wait for weeks. (ii) These records are free from human arbitration. (iii) The updating becomes easy as their records can be updated by applying at the RTC information kiosk and their request is directly registered in the land records database. (iv) These computerised records make farmers free from harassment by government officials, touts, middlemen, village level leaders, etc. (v) Farmers have direct access to all information about their property. (vi) Farmers are able to query and get all type of necessary information about their land.

According to the government of Karnataka, the revenue officials are getting the following benefits: (i) They can access information about any land or revenue property at any given point of time.

(ii) They can retrieve updated information at any point of time.

(iii) The revenue officials are accessing and using the RTC system only by providing their thumb impression as against most other forms of securities that use passwords and therefore can be manipulated. This also safeguards against any kind of data manipulation, pilferage and loss. (iv) The revenue officials are able to monitor the land record work of their subordinates and therefore have better control over their work. CoLR in Gulbarga: Computerisation of land records in Gulbarga started in 1992 in the first phase when the first pilot was initiated in the district. Gulbarga University was the agency appointed for entering the data, which was completed in August 1993. But corrections could not be made to the records, as printouts were not taken. After a gap of nearly four years, the programme was again taken up in 1996, and after obtaining the printouts, the necessary corrections were carried out, and this work was completed by March 1996. Further implementation was hindered as the permission then sought by the districts from the government for the purchase of computers, was delayed. Consequently in the third phase of computerisation, the government supplied all the necessary hardware to all the 10 talukas in the district. Gulbarga district has 1,394 villages and 2,48,931 survey numbers.

Sedam became the first taluka in the district to have the computerised land records facility. Now, all 10 talukas have been computerised. In all there are 7.88 lakh RTCs in the district with Yadgir having the highest of 1.04 lakh and Chincholi the least with 59,650 RTCs. Field study In Gulbarga district: All the 10 talukas of Gulbarga district were selected for the study with the following objectives: (i) To examine the extent and impact of computerisation of land records on revenue administration and cultivators. (ii) To examine the ease and speed with which the cultivators are able to obtain the land records. (iii) To examine the human resource development, capacity-building and awareness generation taken up for implementation for the programme, and the adequacy of the same. (iv) To examine the procedure for making mutation and the time taken for the same. (v) To examine the extent to which the data generated through the computerised land records system is helpful in planning and decision-making.

(vi) To find out the extent to which: (i) CoLR has reduced and changed the workload of the village accountant, tehsildars and other revenue functionaries. (ii) The way in which the role of village accountant has been affected in mutation and maintenance of land records. (iii) It has minimised the possibilities of interpolation of land records and rent-seeking behaviour. (iv) A comprehensive database on various facets of land is available for helping in land reforms. (v) The system has cultivated a sense of awareness among the cultivators and prompted them to exercise their rights. (vi) The support extended or resistance by various official agencies and other interest groups for effective functioning of the system.

The centre for rural studies with the help of Karnataka Rajya Vijana Parishat (KRVP), Bangalore, conducted a field study in all 10 talukas of Gulbarga during the period of February 25 to March 15, 2002. During our field study we visited Sedum taluka, which was computerised first in the district as well as Surpur taluka which was the last taluka to be computerised. Sedam and Surpur were made operational in July 2001 and March 2002, respectively. Thus, the implementation of CoLR can be termed as very recent and the study while making an attempt to assess its success keeps this in mind. This study is a modest attempt to critically assess the efforts for CoLR in Karnataka. This paper is an extract of the report built on extensive fieldwork in rural areas of Gulbarga district of Karnataka. We conducted field study in more than 100 villages and the kiosk centres located at the talukas. The number of respondents were 1,478.

Analysis of Data

General awareness about the computerisation of RTC: This indicator is very important for us as the study was taken up soon after the implementation of the programme. Farmers need a copy of their RTC(s) for obtaining a bank loan; conducting a survey of their land; obtain a certified income statement necessary to receive numerous types of government benefits; making land transactions; producing in court or a police station during a landrelated dispute; and for various personal references. As such, farmers typically seek an official copy of their RTCs at least once a year and sometimes even more often. A majority of the farmers obtain RTCs only for the purpose of obtaining a crop loan. Therefore, they approach for RTCs at the time of the crop loan. The time for crop loan starts every year after June. Overall 85 per cent respondents were aware about the computerisation of RTC at taluka headquarters. Thus it can be safely deduced that within a year of the implementation of this programme, awareness about the computerisation of land records would have been almost universal. Procedure for obtaining computerised RTCs: The awareness about the procedure for obtaining computerised RTCs is directly related to the general awareness about the computerisation of land records. Among the respondents 78.8 per cent knew that the taluka has one computer kiosk at which they can take computerised RTCs and khata details after paying Rs15 per holding. Some of the respondents (5.9 per cent) knew about the computerisation but not exactly the procedure for obtaining RTCs

50.6 per cent of the total respondents obtained RTCs directly from the kiosk for self or for other persons. Landless persons obtained RTCs for other persons after charging some extra money from the landholder.

It also reveals that there is a small though not very significant positive correlation between the landowning class and computerised RTC obtained. More or less around 40 per cent to 55 per cent of the farmers from each category were obtaining computerised RTCs. It can be safely concluded that farmers, irrespective of the size of their landholdings were aware of the procedure for obtaining RTCs and nearly half of them had also obtained a copy of the computerised RTC from the taluka office. Information flow: It has been conceived that within the existing institutional framework enhancement of information flow has a multidimensional impact. This affects other factors like rentseeking behaviour, improvement in record management and storage and reduction of the dispute burden.

At the time of our survey, only 50.6 per cent of the respondents had obtained a copy of the RTC. Out of the total respondents

55.3 per cent stated that the RTC was available without delay,

35.3 per cent did not know if computerisation made availability of RTC easier. 9.3 per cent of the respondents indicated that there was a delay in obtaining RTCs after computerisation. We found that there was clearly a positive correlation between the persons who had obtained RTCs and were having a positive opinion about the availability of RTCs after the computerisation. The correlation coefficient between these two is (+ 0.676). This correlation is also significant at 99 per cent level of significance.

Now we will discuss the cross tabulation between these two for the whole district. In Table 1 we found that 86.8 per cent of the persons who had obtained RTCs opined that this system is less time consuming as compared to old system because they did not have to search for the village accountant. Of the respondents 22.7 per cent who had not obtained RTC till the field study also had a positive opinion about the availability of RTCs after computerisation. They also reported that previously they found it difficult to obtain an RTC on the same day. Even persons residing more than five km from the taluka office stated that after reaching the taluka office, there was no delay but the total time consumed due to long-distance of taluka from their villages was longer. Details can be seen in Table 1.

We asked the respondents about the amount of time required in obtaining their land records after computerisation. There were two factors regarding the time spent: (i) travelling time (ii) waiting time.

We exclude the factor of travelling time since every one knows that kiosk centres are established in at taluka headquarters. Therefore we will only discuss the reasons for waiting time. The option of five minutes was adopted by 18.4 per cent of the respondents. It clearly implies that these people have a very good impression in terms of time spent for obtaining RTC. Similarly,

24.8 per cent spent one hour for the RTC, the reason may be due to the presence of a queue in front of the kiosk. About 26.5 per cent of the respondents spent half day or one day or one-two days. The reasons for this were: lack of power supply and absence of the kiosk operator. Since only one person had received computer kiosk training, his absence for lunch or any other reasons led to delays for the farmers. Amongst these respondents some of the respondents returned to their village in search of the village accountant to ask for their survey number for obtaining an RTC. Some of the farmers found mistakes in their RTC; therefore they visited the taluka another day to obtain a correct RTC. Of the respondents 30.3 per cent were unable to say anything because they had not visited the kiosk. In Table 2, we will see the pattern of opinion of the persons who have already obtained RTCs.

This reveals that amongst the persons who already obtained RTCs; 67.5 per cent stated that obtaining RTC’s only took five minutes to an hour. The time taken for obtaining RTCs is still quite long. This may be due to the fact that the process is in the early stage of implementation. Once the errors in RTC’s are reduced with time, persons will not have to return for a correct copy. Further, training of another person and provision of a generator will also reduce the time required for obtaining RTC’s.

The time taken by village accountants to provide RTC prior to computerisation ranged from one to 30 days. Basavarajappa of Mudagola village of Shahapur talukas said that “(the) village accountant came only once a week, due to this reason it used to take a week to get a land record copy. Therefore it was very difficult for the villagers to obtain RTC whenever it was necessary. The village accountant used to demand Rs 50, Rs 100 or even Rs 500 sometimes for one copy. The village accountant informed only the elected members and large farmers about the latest order of the government. He discriminated between the large and small farmers.” The study shows that 59.7 per cent of the farmers were getting RTC on the same day. For the remaining time taken extended in some cases up to 30 days also. Further, as stated by Basavarajappa, in reality the service of the village accountant in many cases also depended upon the money provided by the farmer.

Opinion about accuracy of computerised land records: In the entire district 44.2 per cent of the respondents were quite sure about the accuracy of computerised land records. They said that the new system was more accurate. About 11.3 per cent were not confident of the accuracy of computerised RTCs. These persons found many errors in the computerised RTCs and therefore they contacted the village accountant for the required corrections. The remaining respondents were not able to say anything about the accuracy of the system since the system is in an early stage of implementation. A farmer, Gouda of village Madana, claimed “there was a mistake in my document and I’m unable to get the certificate”. Subam Reddy of village Irakpalli of Chincholi taluka also complained about the misprinting in the computerised RTC. In his RTC, Ambanna was misprinted as Anjamma. An overwhelming number of respondents, however, have faith in the authenticity of information through the computerised process. The errors which are there in the RTC’s are expected to reduce with time as the system stabilises and the initial errors in the database are rectified. Opinion about harassment in the computerised system: In the survey, 43.8 per cent of the respondents said that the new computerised system was free of any type of harassment. Farmers said that they paid only Rs 15 to the kiosk operator and were able to get an RTC without any harassment by any person or any official. They reported that it took less time to obtain an RTC under the new system because they did not have to search for the village accountant. In the survey, 15.1 per cent of the respondents stated there was still harassment by officials and middlemen. They reported that the village accountant, who issued the RTC was easily accessible, if the RTC was needed urgently, in the old system. Now they have to travel to the taluka to get their RTCs;

41.1 per cent of the persons had either never visited the kiosk or

Table 1: Opinion on Availability of Computerised RTCs without Delay

(In per cent)

Persons Who Obtained Opinion about the Availability of RTC without Delay Computerised RTC Yes No Do Not Know All

Yes 86.8 8.4 4.8 50.9 No 22.7 10.3 66.9 49.1 Total 55.3 9.3 35.3 100 Correlation coefficient 0.676**

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Table 2: Time Required for Obtaining RTCs with Respect to Persons Who Had Obtained RTCs

(In percentage)

Persons Who Obtained Time

Computerised RTC Five One Half One One-two Do Not Total Minutes Hour Day Day Days Know

Yes 30.5 37 6 12.5 11.2 2.9 50.9 No 5.9 11.8 3.7 11.8 7.6 59.1 49.1 Total 18.4 24.8 4.9 12.2 9.4 30.3 100 Correlation coefficient 0.603**

Note: ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Table 3: Opinion about Harassment in New System

(In per cent)

Persons Who Obtained The Computerised System Is Free from Harassment

Computerised RTC Yes No Cannot Say Total

Yes 67.6 18.9 13.6 50.9 No 19.3 11.2 69.6 49.1 Total 43.8 15.1 41.1 100

were unable to say anything about the harassment because the system was in an early stage of implementation. Table 3 will give the opinion of persons who obtained computerised RTC about the harassment faced in obtaining an RTC in the computerised system.

Table indicates that the persons obtaining computerised RTCs have a positive opinion in favour of computerisation. On the other hand, persons who have never visited a kiosk centre were not in position to say anything about the harassment in computerised system. 18.9 per cent of the respondents who had obtained a computerised RTC, stated there was harassment in the computerised system. The reasons are: (i) the significant distance of the computer kiosk, the delays caused by power failure and the increased travel cost. Table 3 also confirms that after computerisation farmers going to obtain RTCs from the taluka office are facing much less or no harassment compared to before.

According to the “shreshtedars”, computerised land record information is more accurate than manual records. They also said that irregularity (non-attendance) of village accountant to their area of operation made it some times difficult for farmers to obtain an RTCs and for the village accountant it was easier to prepare wrong documents. Computerisation has resulted in eliminating manipulation of records. The village accountants can now concentrate on other work. On the other hand, they also said that farmers often have to travel long distances to obtain an RTCs. Corrections and changes in the records due to land transactions also require a lot of time. They also said that frequent power outages shut down the system. Due to this, inconvenience was caused to both users and operators. Delay is also caused by the need for the tehsildar’s thumbprint for entries and as he is often unavailable, many entries are delayed. After computerisation, even small corrective revisions to RTCs require significant time and delay. For crop information, it is difficult to issue an RTC with the current year’s information because the crop information must be communicated by the village accountant to the computer operators which takes time. These are some of the issues which need to be addressed in the future.

According to village accountants, RTCs could be issued quickly to farmers and in their own locality by the old manual system. After the new computerised system, many farmers must travel long distances to obtain an RTC. This causes wastage of time and money for the farmers. Corrections of land records could be done more quickly and easily in old system. After the computerisation no work pertaining to RTC remains with village accountant now. This reasoning can be understood in the context of the arbitrary and discretionary powers of the village accountants being reduced by the computerised system.

All the tehsildars opined that after computerisation the accuracy rate of the RTCs is higher and updating has become easy. For the accuracy of data, verification was carried out three times at the time of data entry. On an average, 40 per cent RTCs were found with errors during first verification and about 20 per cent were found with errors during second verification. Computerisation has also helped them greatly in monitoring and controlling the work of their employees. Thus both the farmers and revenue officials are confident about the accuracy of the new system and are also of the view that harassment has been considerably reduced in the new system.

The manual system of land records maintenance has been described as highly opaque. The village accountants have been perceived as monopolising the records, which were not open to public scrutiny. Several inaccuracies crept into the old manual system due to improper manipulation by the village accountants. In the newly computerised system, there is no possibility of any type of manipulation by a village accountant or kiosk operator or any other person. Therefore when we asked a similar question to the beneficiaries; only 13.4 per cent of the beneficiaries gave negative response. 37.1 per cent of the beneficiaries were quite sure that no manipulation is possible by village accountant or kiosk operator. 49.5 per cent of the beneficiaries were unable to respond since they did not know the details about the programme. They said that they did not know the power of the officials in the new computerised system. Rent seeking behaviour: Rent seeking behaviour is especially pronounced at the grassroot level in the revenue administration. The findings clearly establish that the village accountant had been in a position to seek rent for transactions. This was perhaps true for some other revenue officials as well. Now, after computerisation, costs include the fees for the records (Rs 15 per record) and the travel costs. Before going into the details under the new system, we will discuss the rent incurred by the farmers during the old manual system. The costs for obtaining an RTC in the old system ranged from Rs 2 to more than Rs 100. According to tehsildars, computerisation has also decreased corruption. Overall, 20.5 per cent of the respondents were paying within the prescribed charges for obtaining RTC prior to computerisation. Out of these 11.6 per cent were not paying even the prescribed fees. The remaining farmers were paying more than the prescribed charges. The amount of bribe paid to the village accountant depended on the importance and urgency of records. If any person wanted to obtain the RTC immediately then he had to pay more to the village accountant. There were about 11.6 per cent of the farmers who had paid nothing for obtaining the RTC. Why had the village accountant taken nothing? We found in our field study that the village accountant never charged any money from the influential persons of the village. In some of the cases we also found that the village accountant provided free RTC to the poor or the marginal farmers of the village. In Table 4, we see the behaviour of rent with respect to land size of the farmers. According to Table 4, 26.2 per cent of the large farmers paid either nothing or only the prescribed fee to the village accountant. While on the higher side, 22.4 per cent of the marginal farmers paid more than Rs 50. Therefore, we can conclude that the old system was good for large farmers as well as for influential persons. But now, in the new system, there is no possibility of issuing an RTC without any charge. Thus, this is a case of technology bringing equity. During our field study, we found that many of the large

Table 4: Behaviour of Rent with Respect to Land Size Priorto Computerisation

Land Size Rent Prior to Computerisation (in Rs) Class None or 10-25 25-50 >50 Prescribed Fee

Marginal 20.7 50.5 15.3 22.4 Small 20.2 51.4 13.2 15.8 Semi-medium 21.4 48.4 15.6 14.5 Medium 17 51.9 18.4 12.7 Large 26.2 51 12.1 11.3

Note: The figures indicate the percentage of total respondents.

farmers were against the new computerised system. The reason may be the facilitation provided by village accountants to them. In the new computerised system there is no discrimination in issuing an RTC. We also found that all the farmers were obtaining the RTC paying only Rs 15 throughout the district. However, the total cost of the RTC is more for the farmer as he also pays for travel.

We asked a question from the respondents about the amount paid by them in case of the RTC obtained through other persons or village accountants. The average cost paid by them is Rs 24.57 and the maximum amount paid by the farmers is Rs 80. There were many cases in which farmers paid only Rs 15 to the persons obtaining RTC directly from the computer kiosk. About 51.80 per cent of the farmers paid actual charges to the person obtaining the computerised RTC. The remaining 48.2 per cent paid more than Rs 15.

There is quite a difference in the expenditure in the case when the RTC was obtained through another person or village accountant and in the case where the farmer visited the computer kiosk personally. The difference is double in terms of money. The reasons are: the other persons or village accountants were engaged in work which required regular visits to the taluka. Therefore, they charged only nominal money from the farmers. In spite of that many of the persons were charging more than Rs 15. In some cases, we also found that one person obtained the RTCs for four to five holders of the village in one visit and the money spent on travelling and other items was divided proportionately. Therefore, the cost of the RTC with travelling and other items cost becomes less as compared to a personal visit of the actual RTC holder. Thus, it is an added advantage of the system that any representative of the landowner can obtain a RTC on his behalf. Due to this facility, obtaining a RTC costs less and results in saving time for the farmers. Basically, the expenditure on obtaining a RTC depends on the distance of the villages from taluka headquarter office. In Gulbarga district, the average cost of the RTC for a person visiting the kiosk personally was Rs 47.58 and the average time spent was four hours and 30 minutes. In other words, we can say that visiting a kiosk also results in spending money on travel as well as time for the farmer. This problem can be overcome by taking the kiosk to the hobli or web enabling the RTCs and allowing the village accountant to issue the RTCs, from his headquarters. This would solve the problem to a large extent.

In Karnataka, the revenue department assesses fee per land plot instead of per landholding. This is causing two problems, firstly the Rs 15 fee was typically multiplied many times depending on the number of plots a farmer had. In our field study we have found that there were many respondents who had more than five plots. Two respondents had 17 plots, another two had 12 plots and so on. The farmers having 17 plots were paying Rs 255 for the copies of their RTCs. Secondly; the farmers seeking RTCs for multiple plots occupy the computer kiosk for a considerable time. The slow speed of the computer kiosk operator and the dot matrix printer takes at least five minutes in generating a RTC. For the farmer obtaining 17 RTCs, it will take one hour and 35 minutes thus delaying the process of obtaining RTCs for the other farmers in the queue.

In Gulbarga, around 46.27 per cent villages are located within a distance of 20 kms radiu from the respective taluka headquarters. For covering this distance the farmer has to spend a maximum of Rs 16 and about two hours in terms of time.

In these villages the RTC will cost between Rs 15-Rs 31 for the farmers having only one plot. If we compare this cost with the cost of old manual system, we found that in the old system about 71 per cent of the respondents claimed that they had paid up to Rs 25 for obtaining a RTC. But in the new system only the farmers residing within the distance of 20 kms can obtain the RTC for Rs 15 to Rs 31 without spending much time. According to three farmers of Kudali, making arrangements through village accountant was necessary as the village is situated 26 km away from the taluka office. Farmers have to spend at least Rs 100 for the computerised RTC. According to several farmers from villages, which are far away from the taluka office, unnecessary expenditure in getting a RTC is unavoidable. This problem can be easily solved if more kiosks are set up or the project is web enabled. Land reforms: The purpose is to determine whether the programme has contributed to improved implementation of land reforms. It appears that in Karnataka, the CoLR till date has done little to promote further implementation of land reforms legislations. Revenue department officials reported not a single case of surplus land detected as a result of CoLR. This may be due to the fact that implementation of CoLR is very recent and information is available only taluka-wise as yet. Once the database is integrated at the district level or state level, there might be emergence of new cases. But CoLR has definitely enhanced knowledge of the use of government land. About 21 per cent of the respondents reported that CoLR helps in generating awareness of encroachment over government land, while 79 per cent denied that CoLR has helped in generating awareness of encroachment over government land. This signifies that the level of information about government land has gone up though awareness is still restricted. The findings are clear that the respondents welcome CoLR as a positive step but this had not resulted in any change in the revenue administration. Several respondents specifically stated that there were cases of encroachment over government land but no action was being taken. Several have reported that they do not see how CoLR will overcome this problem if the will to take action was lacking.

Reduction in Disputes

Any form of dispute imposes a burden upon the efficiency of the village economy. Many of the disputes originate from a faulty record system. For this indicator, we asked the respondents about land-related disputes. About 26 per cent of the respondents are sure that computerisation has reduced the land-related conflicts.

7.4 per cent respondents opined that computerisation is not helping in the reduction of disputes. The remaining respondents

(66.6 per cent) were unable to say anything about computerisation

since it is in early stages of implementation. However, in terms of conflicts related to government land only

18.3 per cent of the respondents said that computerisation definitely reduced the conflicts related to government land. 5.6 per cent gave a negative reply and remaining 76.1 per cent were not in a position to comment on the same.

Land tenancy could be one of the points of conflict. During our field visit, 81 per cent of the respondents confirmed that the practice of tenancy still exists in Gulbarga. In our study, we interviewed the persons still involved in the practice of land tenancy. 7.1 per cent (105) of the households are taking land on lease from landowners. The area involved under “leasing in” is 5.84 per cent (431.07 hectares) of the total area owned. 2.98 per cent (44 households) reported that they give their land to tenants. The area involved under leasing out is 3 per cent (222.35 hectares) of the total area owned. The leasing out is underreported since respondents suppress information about leasing out. During our field study we found that only 18 tenants were recorded prior to computerisation and the same status is continuing after computerisation. It is obvious that CoLR would not result in detection of concealed tenancy in the state as the data is the same as given in manual RTCs. As far as reduction of the tenancy related conflicts is concerned, only 10.9 per cent of the respondents were of the opinion that computerisation reduced conflicts of land tenancy. Of the respondents 3.5 per cent thought that there was no effect of computerisation on tenancy related disputes, while 85.60 per cent of respondents were unable to say anything about the disputes of tenancy. Again as the project has been implemented fairly recently, any significant impact on reduction of land-related disputes is not apparent. Institutional finance: Bank loans are given on the basis of RTCs, therefore, landowners need copies of RTCs for a loan application. It was also learnt that the state plans to connect the land records database to databases accessible to various courts and banks in order to facilitate their work relating to land records. It was noted through our findings that there had been some positive impact on the flow of institutional finance. We asked the respondents a very simple question about the easy availability of finance after computerisation. Since the project was in an early stage of implementation, there were many farmers who had never been to a kiosk. About 62.9 per cent of the respondents found it easier to obtain loan after computerisation. Only a very small percentage

(2.1 per cent) found there was no change. 35 per cent did not make any comment as they had never applied for a bank loan. On the basis of this survey, one can safely conclude that CoLR has facilitated availability of loans from banks for the farmers. This is basically because of the easy availability of RTC after computerisation. Facilitation in sale/purchase of land: Sale and purchase of land has been a problem in village society. The seller and the purchaser have to incur large expenditure in the form of search and uncertainty costs. 38.5 per cent of the respondents’ opinion was that the new computerised system facilitated sale or purchase of land while only 6.8 per cent were not in agreement with this view. The others were unable to say anything. It is obvious that as accurate and updated records are available, this has facilitated sale and purchase of land by reducing search and uncertainty costs.

We also asked farmers about the number of days and amount spent in obtaining information regarding the land after and before computerisation. Overall, before computerisation 68 per cent of the respondents were able to get land-related information for sale and purchase purpose within a day. After the computerisation of land records 97.29 per cent of respondents either got or have

Table 5: Clarity regarding the Land being Purchased afterComputerisation

(In per cent)

Persons Who Obtained Increase in Clarity Computerised RTC Yes No Do Not Know Total

Yes 46.1 3.9 50 50.9 No 19 3.4 77.5 49.1 Total 32.8 3.7 63.5 100

a hope of getting the information within a day. Before computerisation there were many respondents (5 per cent) who got information in more than 10 days, the remaining got information between one and 10 days.

The landowners have to spend less time in obtaining information about land after computerisation. Besides, our observation was that the purchaser was more easily convinced with a computerised printout of RTC. We also asked if there was any increase in information clarity regarding the land being purchased after computerisation. Of the respondents 32.8 per cent agreed that there was an increase in clarity regarding the land being purchased. Only 3.7 per cent did not agree with the above statement. The remaining were not in a position to give a response.

It is clear that 46.1 per cent of the respondents who had obtained a computerised RTC printout thought that computerisation had increased the clarity regarding information of sale and purchase. We can say that the respondent has a more positive opinion about the new system after visiting the computer kiosk. (The favourable percentage increases from 32.8 per cent to 46.1 per cent). Planning process: It is definite that CoLR will result in the availability of more timely and usable data for planning purpose. Converting land records data into digital form, will almost certainly make such data easier to review, collate and analyse for various administrative and planning purposes.

The computerised system generates various types of reports of landownership, types of soil, crops, etc, which will be useful for planning purposes. The directorate of statistics and agricultural census, etc, rely upon this data for the compilation of state data, for the compilation of the state statistics is ultimately used for state level planning. Sometimes land data is needed for poverty alleviation programmes (PAPs) for verification. Now after computerisation, verification of land at taluka office will become easy. Planning is also required to be done at the village level under the new dispensation of panchayati raj. At the panchayat level, land data will be helpful in the identification of beneficiaries as well in the formulation of programmes. Therefore, we can say that CoLR will make data and information readily available for planning at different levels from the panchayat to the state government level. Transparency in decision-making: Administration is governed by an old dictum that “not only should justice be done but it should also appear to have been done”. This appearance of “justice being done” is summed up by the terminology “transparency”. There have been serious transparency-related problems in revenue administration, a subject that has been the central theme of concern so often in the past. The CoLR system in the state definitely has contributed a lot to transparency in the revenue administration. It has taken away discretionary and arbitrary use of powers from the revenue functionaries and made accessible the land records to one and all. Mutation: One of the unique features of the Bhoomi software is the “online mutation” module which is incorporated in the software. There has been a synchronisation of computerised activities with the manual activities. Even though the land records system is computerised, the revenue officers have to carry out their fieldwork as usual. There has not been any change in their roles and responsibilities. We specifically asked the respondents about the time taken for mutation before and after computerisation.

About 88.5 per cent farmers indicated that time required for finalisation of mutation prior to computerisation was less than three months. Very few respondents (11.5 per cent) opined that time needed for mutation prior to computerisation was more than three months.

We studied the online mutation in Sedum taluka. It was the first taluka to be computerised in Gulbarga. Other talukas were in the process of completing the exercise of on line mutation. The process for updating the computerised RTCs generally follows the old process with a few added steps. In case of a sale registered with the registration office, the registration officials now send the J-slip along with copies of the deed and other relevant transaction documents directly to tehsildar where they are forwarded to the computer operator. The computer operator prepares a checklist for the transaction using the information form J-slip and verifying it against the current computer records. The checklist is then verified and approved by the shreshtedars.

The taluka level officials then send the J-slip along with a blank no-objection form, a blank mutation form, the checklist, and other accompanying forms to the revenue inspector. The revenue inspector, in turn, informs the parties to the transaction and passes the information to the concerned village accountant.

The village accountant then posts notice of the transaction for 30 days in his village office, inviting objections. If objections are received, he makes an entry in the dispute register and passes the information along to revenue inspector. If there are no objections, the village accountant, completes the blank mutation form and gives it along with the rest of the file to the revenue inspector, who inspects the forms, signs his approval, enters his statement, and gives the entire file back to the village accountant.

The village accountant then takes the file to the taluka office and gives it to the computer operator for making necessary changes in the RTC. The computer operator scans relevant documents and makes the necessary entries in the computerised records. The entries must first be approved by the concerned revenue inspector who does so by entering his thumb impression. After the revenue inspector approves the entry, the shreshtedars and tehsildar, in turn, must approve the entry by providing their thumb impression. After the tehsildar’s approval, the changes are automatically entered in the computerised RTC record.

The entire process of updating the RTCs upon a land transaction now takes less than two months. Sometimes there are delays due to the tehsildar’s non-availability due to other engagements including 30 day period for the statutory notice. Other reasons for delay include technical problems with the computer and inadequately trained computer operators.

It does appear that CoLR has succeeded in making the mutation process less cumbersome. Computerisation of land records has enabled the tehsildar to monitor the pendency of mutation cases. By reviewing the same regularly he can ensure that mutation cases are disposed of expeditiously.

Now we will see rent seeking patterns in mutations prior to computerisation. It indicates that rent paid by the farmers to get their mutation was very high. No person was able to get hiscorrected RTC without paying money. The majority paid more than Rs 200 for the mutation. Some of the person paid up to Rs 5,000 for the finalisation of their mutation. The average cost for the finalisation of RTC is Rs 651. People are of the view that the CoLR programme has definitely led to the reduction in rent seeking behaviour for getting mutation done. Therefore we can conclude that CoLR makes land transactions easier, less expensive, timely, simpler and more effective.

Points of View of Local Revenue Functionaries

Advantages

  • (i) Enhancement in transparency: The manual system of land records maintenance has been described as highly opaque. The village accountants have been perceived as monopolising the records, which were not open to public scrutiny. But, after computerisation, everyone can see his or her RTC on the computer screen without any harassment. Land purchasers and sellers can more easily verify land and landownership information. Land rights information are more accurate now.
  • (ii) Complete avoidance of malpractice and manipulations:
  • Observers note that several inaccuracies crept into the old system through manipulation by the village accountant. Computerisation does not leave any room for manipulation. Prior to computerisation farmers bribed the village accountant for obtaining an RTC. After the computerisation, they have to pay only Rs 15 as a fee.

    (iii) Increase in collection of revenue: The government is getting a good amount of revenue from fees for RTCs.

    (iv) Reduced the workload of village accountant: After computerisation less work pertaining to RTCs remains with village accountants. Now they can concentrate on other work.

    Disadvantages

  • (i) Delays due to power outages and breakdown: The taluka centre is plagued by regular, almost daily, power outages. Because, the computer kiosk does not have a battery or generator back up power supply, the process of obtaining RTC often involved long delays. In Chincholi taluka, the system broke down in October 2001 for a period of 10 days. Whenever any problems related to software as well as hardware occurred in the computer system, no expert was available at the taluka office. The expert had to arrive from the district headquarters to tackle the problem.
  • (ii) Difficulty in issuing RTC with current year’s crop information: There was some difficulty in issuing a RTC with the current year’s crop information because the crop information must be communicated by the village accountant to the computer operators, which takes time. Crop information for only one crop season is entered in the land records
  • (iii) Glitches in software: The software contained a few initial glitches related to the transfer and inheritance of land.

  • (iv) Significant distance of computer kiosk from villages: Farmers often have to travel a long distance to obtain RTCs resulting in greater costs in terms of time and money.
  • (v) More time required for correction: Corrections and changes in the records due to land transactions require a lot of time. Small corrective revisions to RTCs require significant time and delay. More dependence upon village accountant to change land records. He has to visit the taluka at least twice in a week.
  • (vi) Delay due to tehsildar’s thumbprint: Because the tehsildar’s thumbprint is necessary for entries and since he is often unavailable, many entries are delayed.
  • Points of View of Farmers

    Favourable to computerised system of land records: (i) The new computerised system of land records is more explicit and transparent. Now the village accountant and other officials have no chance of manipulating land records. (ii) Any representative of landowner can obtain land records under the new computerised system of land records. (iii) Obtaining RTCs under the new computerised system of land records is more time effective because farmers do not have to search for the village accountant. Against computerised system of land records: (i) The cost of RTCs is higher under the new computerised system of land records. In the past, village accountant issued RTCs at nominal fee. The travel cost was very little or nothing. The fee of Rs 15 per plot in addition to travel cost makes the computerised system more costly. (ii) The time spent on obtaining RTCs is more in the new computerised system because most of the farmers have travel long distances to the computer kiosk at taluka office. (iii) In the past, the village accountant, who issued the RTC was easily accessible even in the case of urgency.

    (iv) Farmers needed information like the survey number from the village accountant to obtain a RTC from the computer kiosk. Therefore, they have to visit village accountants first and then the computer kiosk at taluka office in case they do not know their survey numbers.

    Conclusion

    After the field study of all the talukas of Gulbarga district, we can say that the CoLR is dealing with some of the deficiencies of old manual records system. Now land records are more transparent and open for public scrutiny. It is also noted that CoLR will do very little to promote further implementation of land reforms. We found not a single case related to land tenancy or land ceiling surplus detected as a result of CoLR. CoLR has made land records less prone to manipulations. The village accountants have very little scope for any manipulation or harassment. This is an important advantage of the computerised land records.

    In general, it is found that CoLR has made it easier for farmers to obtain RTCs. However, in many cases due to the significant distance of computer kiosk from their home villages, farmers have to spend time and incur extra expenditure for travelling to the kiosk. Since the government of Karnataka is in the process of extending this up to the hobli level, the farmers will be extremely benefited. The great majority of the revenue personnel felt that the farmers will be able to appreciate the benefits of CoLR fully only after two years. We also found that CoLR had made land records current as compared to manual system. This was because mutations were being disposed of faster. Once a mutation application is entered in the system it is tracked until it is disposed of. This system also enhances monitoring by the tehsildar, thereby improving the accountability of the revenue administration. The online mutation was in process in Sedum, Chincholi, Jewargi and Afzalpur talukas Many of the farmers were happy with online mutation where this process was under implementation. They reported that the existing level of harassment by village accountants in the manual system was quite high. They said that village accountants charged up to Rs 500 and even took up to two years for the mutation under the manual system.

    Definitely, CoLR will result in easy and timely availability of usable data for planning process. Conversion of land records data into digital form has made it easy to review, collate and analyse for various administrative and planning purposes. The government of Karnataka is in the process of addressing the problems of power breakdown at the computer kiosk, need for more computer kiosks and computer operators. When the government sorts out these problems, the farmers will be immensely benefited. It will be essential to monitor farmers’ satisfaction with the CoLR and ask for their suggestions and feedback for improvement.

    In the end, we can say that the CoLR is to a large extent a remedy for the multiple problems of Indian land record system. CoLR has improved land records systems in Karnataka. The CoLRprogramme in Karnataka is a successful application of information and communication technology to government work. It has succeeded in making a “closed” system “open”. The CoLR programme has succeeded in bringing about administrative accountability, check corruption and harassment and has provided equitable access to all concerned.

    One aspect which has made CoLR successful in Karnataka, has been the incorporation of an “online” mutation module with the software. This has ensured that the database is as current as possible and reflects reality. The work flow automation process also has been designed excellently and synchronises the manual process with the computerised system. Other states would do well to follow Karnataka’s example and successfully computerise their land records.

    Besides, some of the factors which have made CoLR programme successful in Karnataka are: (a) Incorporation of an online mutation module in the software. This has ensured that the database is dynamic and current. As soon as mutation is approved the database gets updated and thus reflects the actual ground position. (b) The work flow automation system design has been excellent and the computerised system synchronises very well with the manual system. The basic mode of functioning of revenue personnel remains the same.

    (c) Implementation of any new system/process gives rise to a number of issues/problems which need to be sorted out. The project team at the state government level has been proactive in clarifying and sorting out issues and overcoming teething problems. (d) The project conceptualisation and design in terms of security features, training, overcoming resistance to change, hardware configuration, etc, has been done in a meticulous manner after a thorough study of the existing system. (e) Though the success of Bhoomi is due to a team effort, the role of officials incharge of the project, has been one of the major factors which has resulted in the successful conceptualisation, design and implementation of the project.

    Recommendations

    (i) Farmers often have to travel long distances to obtain RTCs resulting in longer time and more money. Therefore additional computer kiosks must be established to reduce the distance and travel time for farmers. It will be better to find a location, which will be within a radius of 20 km from the villages instead of putting the kiosk at hobli level. (ii) The taluka centre is plagued by regular, almost daily, power outages. Because the computer kiosk does not have a generator back up for uninterrupted power supply, the process of obtaining RTCs often involved long delays. UPS generally cannot work for more than two hours. It is therefore necessary that five KVA generators should be provided in every taluka. (iii) Depending on the workload, the number of computer kiosk operators can be increased so that RTC-seekers do not have to wait while the operator is taking a break or is on leave.

    (iv) The RTC copies should be issued on a per landholder basis rather than on per land plot basis. (v) Establish a ticket number queueing system to establish efficiency and equity in the queueing process at the computer kiosk. (vi) An extra printer should be provided to overcome the problem of any fault in the existing printer. (vii) Farmers needed up to date RTC in terms of crop details. At present the updating takes some time and there are also some errors in updated crop details. The system needs to be further streamlined. (viii) Whenever any problems related to software as well as hardware occur in the computer system, no expert is available at the taluka office. Therefore, an expert has to come from the district headquarters to tackle the problem. Due to this, inconvenience is caused to the users. Therefore, a trained person should be available at taluka level to sort out these problems or the government should tie up with computer agencies at taluka level to provide solutions. (ix) At present the CoLR in Karnataka is restricted to non-spatial data. At the most, attempts are being made to give a copy of the plot map in a scanned image. For comprehensive computerisation,it is necessary that in the next phase, digitisation of maps is taken up either by scanning and digitising the existing maps or by resurvey/fresh survey through modern survey equipment like total stations, etc, for generation of new maps. (x) There should be a mechanism to upgrade the hardware in view of technological advancements and also to take care of new and unavoidable requirements, e g, higher capacity hard disks, new OS, RAID controllers, etc. (xi) To empower farmers, touch screen kiosks should be installed in all talukas as has been done in Bangalore south talukas. (xii) MPs/MLAs can finance the extension of kiosk at sub-taluka or other level from their MP/MLA LAD (member of Parliament/member of legislative sssembly local area development) scheme so that access to the farmers is enhanced. (xiii) After the implementation of the programme in talukas it would be necessary that computers be maintained all the time. The down time should certainly not be more than 24 hours. An annual maintenance contract has to be entered into with competent parties which should be stationed at taluka level so as to rectify the computers and the peripherals in less than 24 hours. Ten per cent of the machine’s cost should be provided for the maintenance of the hardware every year. This maintenance cost shall be payable every second year onwards for at least five years. (xiv) There is a need to integrate departments dealing with lands, such as, survey and land records, registration department at village/taluka/district and state level which could facilitate simultaneous updating of land records caused by mutation, sale of property, conveyance, partitions, exchange, gifts. Settlements, release deeds, etc. This may also help faster updating of land records, which may be useful to landholders. (xv) There is a need to train survey, revenue officials including village level functionaries for upgrading their skills in CoLR. (xvi) Computerisation process should integrate registration of land titles. Land laws/mutation process should be simplified for easy and fast implementation of computerisation.

    (xvii) The land information data should be web-enabled. This will provide easy access via internet. (xviii) The state government should explore the possibility of providing simputers (The common man’s computer), to the village accountants for data entry of crop.

    rr;

    [The original report is available at the LBSNAA, Myssorie.]

    Email: manojahuja@lbsnaa.ernet.in

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