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Distribution of e-property cards under ‘SWAMITVA scheme’ – The Big Picture – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • July 23, 2021
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The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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General Studies 2:

  • Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein. 
  • e-governance and its applications

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

In News: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi launched the distribution of e-property cards under the SWAMITVA scheme on National Panchayati Raj Day through video conferencing. 4.09 lakh property owners were given their e-property cards on this occasion, which also marked the rolling out of the SVAMITVA scheme for implementation across the country. 

SVAMITVA Scheme – Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas

  • Launched as a Central Sector Scheme to promote a socio-economically empowered and self-reliant rural India
  • Paves the way for using the property as a financial asset by villagers for availing loans and other financial benefits
  • The Scheme will cover around 6.62 Lakh villages of the entire country during 2021-2025. The pilot phase of the Scheme was implemented during 2020–2021 in the States of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and select villages of Punjab and Rajasthan. 

The Need for this Scheme

A comprehensive digital mapping of rural land categories — agricultural, residential and commons — will help raise rural productivity and incomes in various ways. Individual farmers are not able to take land on lease, or confidently lease out land. Availability of institutional credit is constrained by the absence of proper land records. 

A large number of land parcels are subject to legal disputes and unclear titles make tenures insecure for the poor and vulnerable people, thus creating a sense of insecurity in the business climate, discouraging new investment, and posing a challenge to governance. The pendency of several million cases relating to land disputes in courts is partly because of the lack of comprehensive and up-to-date land records.

Land-related disputes in India account for 60-70% of all civil litigation. About 25% of all cases decided by the Supreme Court involve land disputes, of which 30% concern disputes relating to land acquisition, according to National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). According to the second edition of the NCAER Land Record Services Index (N-LRSI), the national average improved by 16.2% between the two rounds, showing considerable progress across states in digitizing records and the registration processes.

The digitisation of agricultural land records has contributed to the smooth implementation of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. However, the provision of common amenities is impacted by the lack of demarcation of property owned in the villages. Panchayats are unable to collect their due share of property tax from residential parcels.

How is a SVAMITVA property card generated?

  1. MoU with States: The framework for implementation of SVAMITVA scheme provides a multi-stage process of generating a property card, which starts with signing of a memorandum of understanding between Survey of India (SoI) and respective state governments. 
  2. Use of technology: The SoI is responsible for preparing the National Topographic database on all scales, using technology (drones, Satellite images)
  3. Setting up of Network: Once the MOU is done, a Continuously Operating Reference System (CORS) network is establishes that supports in establishing ground control points, which is an important activity for accurate Geo-referencing
  4. Public Awareness: The next step is the identification of villages to be surveyed during the pilot phase, and make people aware of the process of mapping properties. 
  5. Preparation of GIS Database: The abadi area (residential area) of the village is demarcated and each rural property is marked with limestone (chunna). Then, drones are used for large scale mapping of rural abadi areas. Based on these images, a GIS database on 1:500 scale, and village maps — Gram Manchitra — are drawn. 
  6. Verification: After creation of maps, a ground verification process by drone survey teams follows, on the basis of that corrections, if any, are made. At this stage, inquiry/objection process – conflict/ dispute resolution is completed
  7. Issuance of Property Cards: After verification, final Property Cards/Title deeds or “Sampatti Patrak” are generated. These cards will be available on digital platforms or as hard copies to the village household owners.

How will the SVAMITVA property data and maps be updated in the future?

  • The framework states, “Once the GIS database is prepared encompassing the 6.62 lakh villages, state governments will be responsible for conducting future surveys and updating the GIS database.” They will also decide the update frequency of the re-survey.

Who will own the SVAMITVA data?

  • According to the framework, the orthorectified base maps shall be jointly owned by the Survey of India, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the state government. The GIS data will also be jointly owned by Centre and State. 
  • However, the data related to property details will be owned by the State Revenue Department as it has the authority to mutate the Right of Records (RoRs) and update the maps. 
  • Hence, the State Revenue Department will be the owner/host of this data and others will have a right to view

What is the benefit of issuing a SVAMITVA property card?

  • Access Credit & Benefits: It will enable rural households to use their property as a financial asset for taking loans and other financial benefits. 
  • Tax Collection: The database will help in determination of property tax, which would accrue to the Gram Panchayats directly in states where they are empowered to collect such taxes
  • Enhances Liquidity of assets: The cards will help increase liquidity of land parcels in the market and increase the financial credit availability to the village.
  • Developmental Planning: The scheme will also pave the way for creation of accurate land records for rural planning. All the property records and maps will be available at Gram Panchayat, which will help in taxation of villages, construction permits, elimination of encroachments, etc.

The Way Forward

  1. Engage the community from the start: Land and boundaries can be a charged topic, which more often than not discourages any policy reform. However, by involving the community, it is possible to create greater acceptance of the process and reduce potential for disputes. When the land boundaries are drawn by the people themselves, there is a high level of transparency and neighbours act as a check and balance, while building consensus on boundaries. 
  2. Protect the most vulnerable people: Land often has deep roots in social power structures, including caste and gender biases. Dalits, women, tenant farmers and tribal communities are often excluded from accessing land, even though they may legitimately have a claim. It would be important to build safeguards in the implementation process to ensure legitimate claims of the most vulnerable people are not crowded out by louder, or powerful voices. Awareness drives to familiarize people with digital land records, how to interpret and access them, also need to be built into the program to avoid information asymmetry and ensure access across user groups.
  3. Establish a grievance redressal system: Even with the best of intentions, it is possible that the process will create grievances for some people. Drawing learnings from Odisha’s Kalia and Mo Sarkaar programmes, a grievance redressal system that effectively addresses people’s concerns in a transparent and fair manner, will go a long way in smooth implementation of the program.
  4. Enable markets to work: It would be simplistic to expect that updated property records alone will make credit flow into rural areas. Credit needs marketable collateral, so it would be important to ensure there is a functional market for the underlying collateral – land. This would require states to simplify the legislative and regulatory procedures to build consumer confidence and encourage transactions in these areas.

Modernising land records is one of the foundational steps towards mending and reimagining broken institutional arrangements, which are pivotal in today’s circumstances. The scheme has signaled political will at the Centre to create reliable land records, which has been long overdue. 

Connecting the Dots:

  1. 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act
  2. Analyse the impact of the SVAMITVA Scheme on rural India.

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