Among the government's commitments for digitalisation of services, perhaps the most popular one relates to the agenda of digitalising the country's land registration system. All because, anyone visiting a land office to receive registration services has to endure corruption, let alone hassles. So the people eagerly await digitalisation of the land registration system they have to take recourse to almost on a daily basis. The government and the civil society never tire of emphasising how going on-line with public services would automatically ensure speed, transparency and accountability of governance -- all in a convenient and cost-efficient package.
With this perspective in mind, it really smacks of vested interests swirling around the country's land administration system clawing back to queer the pitch of digitalisation whenever it hits the news trail. For they feel threatened to be running out of business.
It is a sad commentary though, on the pace of implementation of the digital project that the government had launched as far back in 2010 focused on land registration. Particularly concerning is the fact that 'the progress of the project got halted in 2015 despite completion of the software development, a major task of its automation, as reported in this paper on Friday.
The waffling about the project continues as no progress has been reportedly made in 'reviving the project' halted three years back. On the one hand, those who do not want the cracks in the system sealed off to carry out their designs of corruption and malpractice get a traction; and on the other, the government's prized project receives a setback.
The Directorate of General Registration took up as a pilot project in 2012 with its own funds in line with the government plan for automation of four land registration offices and record rooms. But when the DGR wanted to embark on replication of the micro projects country-wide it faced resource crunch. So it put in a request for Tk 2.0 billion for digitalizing the country's registration system.
The imperative for digitalisation in this sector is reinforced if one takes into account the fact that land registration is the government's second largest revenue source after the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
We thank a senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity has put forward an unassailable argument against fund shortage being apparently touted : "The total cost of the project covering the whole country was around TK 1.93 billion, an amount which can be met with DGR's earnings of just a few days."
Granted, the massive project of a wholesale transformation from corruption-infested manual land management paradigm into complete digitalisation of the system would have been too much of a heavy-lifting for the government. Thus one can't fail to see that the implementing authority didn't take a plunge in digitalising the whole land administration system ranging from the management of Khas lands or public property to private land-holdings, although that should be the ultimate but time-bound aim to be accomplished.
Since the cracks of the manually-handled deed registration system have widened over the centuries with fragmentation of land-holdings, what with very high incidence of land grabbing, digitalization should spearhead not just land administration but land use as well.
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