Threats and torn maps test India's digitisation of century-old land titles

Mahettar Ram Tandon, 76, a follower of Ramnami Samaj, who has tattooed the name of the Hindu god Ram on his full body, poses for a picture inside his house in the village of Jamgahan, Chhattisgarh, India, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Progress is uneven, with many states unable to re-survey lands to determine their boundaries and ownership

NEW DELHI, Nov 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India's push to digitise its land records to minimise conflicts and increase transparency of transactions is marred by torn maps, tradition and disputes dating back decades, according to an analysis of the progress made by three states.

The national land record modernisation programme, launched in 2008, aims to survey lands, update records and establish ownership. It is scheduled to be completed in 2021 after overshooting its budget and deadline. 

The government says the programme has covered about 565,000 villages, or 86 percent of all recorded villages. But progress is uneven, with many states unable to re-survey lands to determine their boundaries and ownership.

"Re-surveying is a difficult, long drawn process. There are legacy issues and other complications because the records are 100 years old," said S. Chockalingam, director of land records in Maharashtra.

"So getting digital records to mirror reality is a challenge," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Land records in most Indian states date back to the colonial era. Most holdings have uncertain ownership, fraud is rampant and disputes over titles often lead to protracted court battles.

Matters related to land and property make up about two-thirds of all civil cases in India, according to a study released last year.

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