Five years before the Digital India Plan was announced in the Union budget 2017, Karnataka had seen the first steps being taken for digitisation of land/property records. The project – named Urban Property Ownership Record (UPOR) – which had led to property owners getting title/property cards, has been implemented in Mangaluru, Mysuru and Shivamogga in Karnataka.
But just before UPOR was to enter Bengaluru – a haven for murky transactions related to benami properties and land encroachments – the project hit a roadblock; the problem being that in UPOR, properties are digitised and title cards are issued, and when that happens it would build a record of all properties, identify land hoarders and grabbers. But that did not seem conducive in a city where transparency would affect many stakeholders who preferred the quicker, murky transactions.
Explains an officer who was handling UPOR and was part of the short-lived success story: “UPOR needs a strong political will; and despite all odds, we were able to implement it in the other cities. But it is a different ball game in Bengaluru where real estate industry holds high stakes and calls the shots. Once UPOR is implemented and property card made mandatory, it would be the end of all benami transactions.
Land-grabbing will not be easy anymore. The Union government is only now talking big about land record digitisation, but we (Karnataka) were the pioneers. But our project is jinxed.’’ UPOR, aka property card, was introduced by the revenue department’s survey, settlement and land records wing, under its then commissioner Munish Moudgil, wherein all properties were to be recorded, digitised and the owners issued title cards.
The project has been introduced in Mangaluru, Mysuru and Shivamogga where nearly 1.82 lakh title cards are issued.
But it is obvious why the ambitious project which Bengaluru needs the most has not been able to make any strides in the state capital. UPOR followed the success of project Bhoomi, which gave clear property titles to agricultural land holders. A software was readied, and spatial and manual survey of each and every property followed.
Property owners were issued letters asking them to present the property documents for verification. Once the documents were verified and tallied with the survey findings, property cards were issued – not a card in its true sense, but a six-page document. The ultimate purpose was to integrate UPOR with Kaveri – the property registration software – was to make property cards mandatory for any transactions.
But another reason why UPOR hit a roadblock in Bengaluru was that it was not made a compulsory document. There was a lack of government will to make it mandatory even as Land Revenue Act mandated the property card. And the project which looked promising and shifted gears during the Moudgil’s tenure, unfortunately took a backseat after his exit. The 2017-18 budget has proposed that digitisation of land records shall be done through faster execution of Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme.
The digitisation and clear demarcation of government, forest and private land will curb land-related disputes and enable public access to property registry information. To add to this, fast-tracking of land title insurance introduction – a requirement under the Real Estate Act – will be another step towards cleaning the property mess.
According to industry pundit, Shrinivas Rao, CEO-Asia Pacific, Vestian Global Workplace Solutions, budget 2017 has given a clear direction to the way real estate industry would operate in India, and digitisation of land/property records is the first step towards transparency in the real estate sector.
Credits Bangalore Mirror