That the government's project to digitise land records has run into a serious snag is bad news. In fact, ever since the government began to flag digitisation as one of its foremost objectives -- way back in its first term of office ten years back -- land registration figured as a top priority area for inclusion in the digitisation programme. With the commencement of works, there was a feeling of relief among citizens that things would be far easier for buying and selling of landed property and that disputes and litigations so common in land-related matters would no longer be a cause for public misery.
Unfortunately, it's not to be. Mystery shrouds the project as there is no clear clue as to what actually happened to it. A recent FE report says that the project which remained virtually shut for the last few years is now finally going to be scrapped -- although a considerable amount of money has already been spent. It indeed seems strange why the project is being abandoned, and more importantly, why the relevant authorities-the land ministry to be precise -- are silent about it. Abandonment of the project without citing any clear reason, whatsoever, has obviously caused doubt among service recipients and anti-graft activists regarding the service provider's willingness to ensure transparency in land record documentation and maintenance. There are views among insiders that the software developed for the purpose was either found faulty or not capable of addressing all issues related to documentation of land records. But the allegation is not strongly supported by evidence. On the other hand, there are others, according to the aforementioned FE report, who hold that dearth of fund has been the key reason for not allowing the project to move ahead. The report, quoting high level sources, says that piloting of the project started in 2012 at the Directorate of Registration's own expense, but funds required for replication across the country were not made available by the government.
Many in the country were under the impression that the project was running -- slowly though; but now that it is going to be scrapped, one has reasons to believe that there had not been sufficient homework before going about a project of this order. Dearth of fund also raises questions. For an organisation that earns huge revenue for the government, fund constraint does not at all sound plausible. Is it then a deliberate move to put off digitisation in order to systematise that the countrywide network of public harassment and corruption continues as long as possible?
Digitisation, one of the key mandates of the party in power in its successive terms in office, has failed to capture a critically important area of public service. Had the project been accomplished, the country would have been on a far better footing in combating corruption while at the same time making a crucially vital service easily available to the masses. One only hopes the authorities sat up and mended the wrongs so that the project can be revived.
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