Govt must undertake fresh Land Settlement in J&K

The Revenue Department claims that more than 80 % of the record has already been digitised.
Govt must undertake fresh Land Settlement in J&K
GK Photo

 ‘apki Zameen Aapki Nigrani’ is a centrally sponsored programme of Govt of India known as Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP). This programme is aimed at modernising management of land records and ensuring more transparency. The Introduction of DILRMP will reduce the property disputes, and will also ensure conclusive titles to immovable properties in Jammu & Kashmir. The computerisation and digitisation of land records is the major component of this scheme which is going at full pace for the last few months now. The Patwaris are seen busy uploading the land revenue record on a digital network. Govt claims that this would be followed by survey, resurvey and updation of all survey and settlement records, integration of property registration with land records and cadastral maps to ensure the authenticity of record. The land revenue record digitisation is going on in all 20 districts which comprises 6912 villages. The Revenue Department claims that more than 80 % of the record has already been digitised. At a time when this digitisation process is going on, the land owners across J&K are worried about the wrong data being uploaded on the e-portal as land records that are available on papers are already faulty and Patwaris are not trained to digitise the record as well. So in every Tehsil a lot of wrong records have been uploaded on online portals as Patwaris and other Revenue Department officials have been under tremendous pressure to upload the record as soon as possible. Many Patwaris who are not familiar with computers hired computer knowing people to do this job, but has the correct record been uploaded on a web portal is the big question?

Land Settlement?

Land Settlement or Bandobast  is a comprehensive term that covers all aspects of land survey & measurement, preparation of revenue records and assessment of land revenue. The Dogra Ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1889 appointed British Officer Sir Walter Lawrence as first Settlement Commissioner of the erstwhile state. The officer served in Indian Civil Service and was also a member of the British Council of India those days. Before Sir Lawrence, Mr Vintage in 1887 was asked to undertake the settlement process of some villages but the Govt decided to get a full time settlement commissioner. Sir Walter Lawrence was given full powers to conduct the settlement process and he faced lots of challenges in the beginning, and local Patwaris were said to have been involved in that by instigating the villagers. Sir Lawrence tried his best to make people understand settlement of their land records considering its measurement, location, irrigation facilities etc., was of great importance. A dedicated Settlement Department was set up which restored the confidence of people for that massive land record activity that lasted for 5 years (1889 to 1994). The paddy called Shali was taken as land revenue and the maximum portion of this crop was allowed to be retained by cultivators. This helped the settlement department to take up the settlement process without any problems. The peasants who were earlier reluctant to cooperate started cooperating with revenue department officials. The cultivators who were previously reluctant to cultivate the waste land started filling fresh applications for allotment. The occupancy cultivators (qabza daar) were given protection under law. By the end of 1894 the entire process was completed. As per the data available with Financial Commissioner Revenue J&K following steps are involved in preparation of record of rights or revision of record of rights:

Updation of Jamabandi by incorporating all mutations attested since the last Jamabandi. The Patwari has to draw up or enter mutations of all changes reflected into Girdawari and obtain orders on such mutations from Mutating Officer and make requisite entry into Jamabandi & update Shajra Nasab Malikan (Owners).

Define or delineate Hadbast of village along with surrounding patwaries, establish proper marks of identification at each point.

Demarcate & identify all sarkar, shamilat and common lands to determine any encroachment or accesses made on such land.

Prepare chumanda (Rough Sketch) and Khatooni by Pencil called Kham Khatooni by visiting each field.

Start measurement or survey from the North –West corner of the village.

After completion of measurement/ survey, compare Kham Khatooni with updated Jamabandi and confirm Khatooni.

After confirmation of Khatooni it has to be announced by Tehsildar or Naib Tehsildar entry wise in presence of the village community and arrested after making requisite changes, if any.

Draw-up Record of Right on the basis of Khatooni so prepared

Deposit the Record of Rights in Settlement Record Room after final attestation by Settlement Officer. Obtain a copy of Part-e-Patwar of the R.O.R. from the Settlement record room.

Land passbooks

We are aware of bank passbooks. This small booklet is given to account holders after opening an account in any bank. The Revenue Department was also supposed to provide passbooks to the landowners so as to keep them aware about the amount of land they own, its location, its title, survey /khasra number etc. Section 16 of J&K Land Revenue (amended) Act of 1996 which is a protected legislation under J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 calls upon Revenue officers particularly the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to ensure preparation of passbooks for every landholder of the district. The relevant section reads as:

“The Deputy Commissioner of the District shall cause to be prepared a passbook of every land holder in his District containing records of rights, agricultural holding, transfer of rights, ration cards, subsidies, liabilities etc., in revenue estate to enable the land holder makes it use for credit facilities and for other matters connected therewith or incidental thereto ”

The idea of making these passbooks was to ensure transparency and accountability in maintaining land records which is marred by corruption and mismanagement. Incorporating these provisions in J&K Land Revenue Act through an amendment in 1996 was to provide for an efficacious and fool-proof mechanism in maintaining land record. This was also to ensure that there is no illegal entry or alienation in these records by the officials of the revenue department. Through these passbooks landowners or farmers could have availed credit facilities from banks as well which is a provision in the law itself.

For more than 26 years these passbooks were not issued to the beneficiaries. One good thing Govt did is that these land passbooks are being issued to landowners. There is a technical fault in this, which needs to be rectified. The Land Owners Passbook is not like a small booklet, but a bundle of A-4 size papers ( 5 to 16 pages) on an average. This doesn’t look perfect and patwaris are asked to issue it without being remunerated for the same. If for example a Patwari  issues 10 landowners passbooks daily with average 10 pages, this means 100 page printout he has to take? Who will pay Rs 200 or 300 which he has to spend for it? Such things lead to corrupt practices and at the end of the day the poor landowner is fleeced by these Revenue Department officials?

Conclusion

The digitisation of land revenue records is a welcome step but there have been serious errors committed by Revenue officials in the past, which could not be rectified. In fact a settlement process was initiated around 2002 and that continued for many years in some tehsils and villages of Kashmir valley, and Jammu, but the process was not completed and had many faults as wrong insertions were made in revenue records. We have technological solutions available now vis a vis land records and it won’t be a challenging task to do a fresh land settlement across Jammu & Kashmir. If Sir Walter Lawrence could do land settlement with great perfection more than 130 years back, why can’t the Government do this now with the help of technology?

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement

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