Reading time: 8-10 minutes.
The soul and spirit of India live in its villages where almost 69% of the total population of the country resides. A major portion of land comprising of about 60.45% is under rural occupation. The rural areas have been of tremendous importance. They were one of the primary domains of interest for Britishers in India. Despite being an important economic generator for the British in India, little was done for the development and upliftment of rural areas. They remained neglected during the British era and nothing much has changed for them ever since.
Land has become a unique asset as the demand increases with the increase in population. Holding land as a property has an all-inclusive distended impact on livelihood, economic and social growth. Survey of rural India, which was completed immediately after independence for the settlement and record of rights, did not cover ABADI which includes inhabitant land, inhabited areas. As a result of which, most of the people from rural areas neither have a record of their residential land nor have any document to prove their ownership. Despite comprising more than half of the country’s population, it is surprising that a high percentage of villagers don’t have their residential property papers.
In most of the states, the survey of the population areas of the village and the verification of their lands has not taken place yet, even after more than 70 years of independence. As a result, most rural households in India are not able to leverage their property as a financial asset. In the absence of any legal documents acceptable to the bank, they cannot take any economic benefits from their property. This has been seen as a serious barricade in India’s path to development.
A serious need for a plan to tackle the problem was felt and finally addressed by the Government of India’s SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) Scheme or Ownership Scheme. The scheme launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on 24th April 2020, on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day is a co-function and tied in the effort of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Departments, Revenue Departments of the State and Union of India, and Survey of India.
Two portals (E-Gram Swaraj Portal & Svamitwa scheme) were launched during Prime Minister’s interaction via video conferencing with Sarpanches from across the country. The meeting focused on the much-required reforms for people associated with the Agricultural sector of India and laid special emphasis on agricultural marketing, management of marketable surplus, and providing access to the farmers of institutional credits. The portals can be accessed at egramswaraj.gov.in and are also available as mobile applications.
India is the second most populous country in the world. Such a huge population can be brought into tremendous utility by involving them both manually and through unique technological means to achieve sky-rocketing progress. However, with increasing population comes increasing problems. As the population continues to grow, India has to utilize its resources in such a manner so that it benefits the maximum, if not all. Land as a limited resource is a nonpareil asset and has many benefits attached to it. Unless and until a person has the land title, he will not be able to avail those benefits that come with it.
Land titles in India have remained unclear due to various reasons such as legacy issues of zamindari system, poor administration of land records and the gaps in the legal framework. This has primarily led to land related disputes, affected agriculture, and also the real estate sector highlighting the significance of issuing clear land titles and organizing the land records system. This scheme had to be initiated as many villagers had no papers to prove that they had ownership rights over their land. Its main target is to provide ownership rights to the people in the rural areas. This is viewed as a tool to help settle property disputes and in turn empower and entitle the villagers. This will provide an integrated property validation solution for the places in the rural parts of the country. This facility will reach to 1.25 Lakh Panchayats approximately.
The Svamitva scheme is an innovative step that aims to ensure granting ownership of residential land in rural areas to their rightful owners. The desideratum of this scheme is to stipulate an integrated and interspersed property corroboration and validation solution for the rural areas. Drones, the latest technique of survey and measurement, will be deployed to draw the digital map of every property falling in the geographical limit of each Indian village minimizing the major possibilities of errors. The process of demarcation by Drone Surveying technology would be a virtual mark off processed within less time than stipulated if done manually for areas with no legacy revenue records. This data regarding the boundaries of each revenue block determined will be accessible online and made available globally. After the process of measurement is complete, the property papers of each house of the village will be generated by the State governments accordingly.
For the pilot phase of the scheme a projected outlay of Rs 79.65 has been approved for the year 2020-21. This pilot phase will extend to six States Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand and cover approximately 1 lac villagers. This scheme has included the Post-Pilot Phase or Phase II which will be done in consultation with the Survey of India for the States that have already done their surveys. Eventually, this scheme will cover 6-7 lac villages in the country.
The process of legal documentation is usually hectic but here it has been simplified ensuring clarity on property rights. The village household owners will be granted the proof of their ownership in the form of Property cards and that will also be updated in record of rights in the revenue or property registration. Benefiting the rightful owners:
- It will save them from land mafia’s loot of land and help resolve other property-related disputes with the title deeds allotted as well. As per a NITI Aayog report, on average a land dispute takes about 20 years to resolve. It is not only a time-consuming process but also burdens the courts, ties up the land in litigation and also impacts the projects dependent on these disputed land titles.
- Land is used as a collateral for obtaining loans. Those who don’t own a formal land title will be unable to access the institutionalized credit and have to primarily borrow from informal sources of credit such as money lenders or friends and relatives. This scheme will enable them to use their property as a financial asset for taking loans or other financial benefits from banks; facilitate monetization of rural residential assets for the purchase of credit and other financial services.
- With the method being completely technology influenced, it leaves minimum scope for error. It will also mark corrections in the previous incorrect land records affecting the availability of other inputs for farming. If the actual area cultivated was more than the area marked in the official registered papers, the area insured will also be less. This can cause a reduction in the insurance claims of farmers.
- Due to the shift in economy from agrarian to manufacturing and services based, use of land has also shifted from agriculture to commercial and industrial purposes. Several projects remain delayed due to non updation of land records as uncleared land records can be potentially an investment risk in future. The process of updating the land records cannot be done overnight and it very cumbersome. For example, it takes up to 12 months to obtain a land ownership certificate in Chennai and Odisha.
- It would result in the clear determination of property tax and strengthen overall tax collection accrued to Gram Panchayats. It will streamline planning and revenue collection. Thereby through this revolutionary step, the owner of the property easily gets to prove the ownership without much hassle. The online updated data can be accessed by the owners anywhere. The residents of the village will be able to provide a record of the actual residential area of the villages to the panchayats.
- To serve the purpose of social and economic growth and development in the villages, the Gram Panchayats had been constitutionally strengthened and mandated to prepare Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP). Previously, the Gram Panchayats were helpless at the hands of lack of accurate information and issued legal documents but after this scheme, there is likely to be seen an exponential increase in better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs). Under the scheme, not only demarcation of individual rural property will be done but other community assets would also be demarcated. The database created after would prepare accurate work estimates for various works undertaken by Gram Panchayats and other Departments of State Government to prepare a better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). A more accurate record will lead to issuing permits enabling the government to effectively planning for the infrastructural programs in villages and also eliminate illegal occupation.
Surveys to update land records had either not been undertaken or completed. Maps have not been used where they have been undertaken survey to establish actual property on ground, as a result the property documents do not match the position on the ground. These data collected were updated as a result of which the poor land records affected future transactions. Modernized methods and techniques have been adopted in this scheme to achieve computerisation of property registration process and digitization of land records. The people from rural areas cannot be deprived from their right to avail and enjoy benefits from their property without any fault of theirs. The system has been slow to adopt proper measures for them and they cannot be made to suffer due for the inefficient and slow mechanism.
Land is an appreciating asset for which there’s an increasing demand. A land can change the livelihood of the person by adding to a person’s most valuable possessions. However, since the supply for it is limited, and since there are increasing disputes over property, it has become really crucial and essential to be able to prove that one has ownership rights over the land. Since most of the villagers have no documentations, the SVAMITVA scheme aims at providing property cards which will serve as proof. The provision of right to documentation of property will enable the villagers to use their property for economic purposes.
In India, a commonly encountered problem in the rural areas is property dispute, the reason being, most of the people residing in rural areas do not have papers that help them prove that they have ownership rights. An estimated 7.7 million people in India are affected by conflict over 2.5 million hectares of land, threatening investments worth $ 200 billion. Land disputes purport to the largest set of cases pending before the courts. This scheme aims at decreasing the number of disputes in the rural areas of the country. It aims at settling property disputes, which will eventually lessen the number of cases pending before the court.
There are around 6.62 lakh villages in India. The scheme aims to cover all these villages in a period of 4 years. The pilot phase for the scheme is the financial year of 2020-2021 and the pilot states that are approved are -Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra, covering approximately 1 lakh villages.
Nodal Ministry, Survey of India, State Revenue and State Panchayat Raj Departments, Local District Authorities, Property Owner, Gram Panchayat and National Informatics Centre are involved in executing the scheme. For the purpose of monitoring, there’s a ‘three layer’ framework setup.
Online Monitoring systems that are setup will keep track of the progress and developments of the scheme and will increase accessibility and transparency. Arrangements for national level Information, Education and Communication campaigns in order to increase awareness and benefits of the scheme have been made.
GIS maps will also be created for other Gram Panchayat and community assets such as schools, ponds, roads, canals, open spaces etc. This scheme will digitally empower all the panchayats across India. It will help in streamlining planning, providing clarity on property rights and will ensure revenue collection in the rural parts of the country.
This scheme is very essential for a country like India as it helps in bringing financial stability for the poor. This will uplift the people of the rural areas. The civil rights of the citizens will be protected. Since this scheme helps in providing proof for ownership rights, it helps in resolving property disputes. By helping bring down the number of land dispute cases, the burden of the judiciary will be lessened. If the pilot phase proves to be a success, India can reach great heights by formulating more policies like these that make use of the new and improvised technology, in order to solve predominant problems among the poor by coming up with pertinent solutions.This scheme’s endeavour is congruent to the ‘Digital India Programme’ which aims to transform this country into a digitally empowered society – “faceless, paperless and cashless”With more schemes like SVAMITVA, the country’s improvising technology will serve as an advantage for all its citizens and will help better the standard of life.
Authors: Iffla Firdous from Department of Law, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal Srinagar and Dhanya S Krishnan from SASTRA University.
Editor: Akshat Mehta from Institute of Law, Nirma University.