Why is Revenue Department of J&K afraid of digitization of land records?

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Jammu and Kashmir has remained on the back seat in most of the developmental stories of the country since decades. Terrorism has been an excuse for the political leadership as well as the bureaucrats of J&K’s present condition where common people have to make a beeline at government offices even for resolution of small issues and land records being one of them.

Land records in J&K has been a major problem to access for people. Even if one needs loan, he has to grease the palms of the concerned staffer of the Revenue department. The shameless officials of the revenue department have so far done nothing to stop the rampant corruption in their department.

From accessing the land records to changing the title of ownership or any other work in revenue department of J&K, corrupt officials do not leave any opportunity to extract money from common people. Despite so many complaints and arrests of the corrupt officials of Revenue department including Patwaris for taking bribe, there has been no action against the root cause of the perennial problem – lack of digitization of land records.

Former Governor of J&K, Satya Pal Malik had also asked the Revenue department to digitize the land records for ease of public. However the department that is sitting on its hands since ages would not even listen to the government and the records are still in paper form. After the state of J&K became a Union Territory, it was thought that the digitization of land records would be completed soon. However it is one year since it became a UT but J&K is still far from progress, due to the corrupt officials.

While it is understood that digitization of land records in J&K will not be completed overnight, the lack of efforts is evident from the fact that even the senior officials of the UT as well as Lieutenant Governor are making efforts and trying for digitization of the records in the UT.

Interestingly, the corrupt system of Revenue department has missed the deadlines for digitization of land records for three times – February 2018, March 2019 and against in 2019 in June. The new deadline for the records that has been set in March 2021 is also likely to be missed due to the outbreak of Coronavirus and resultant disruption in official work, an excuse that the officials of the department are not going to leave.

Lt Governor GC Murmu was recently reviewed the digitization process of land records in Jammu and Kashmir few months ago and was annoyed over the snail’s pace of the work undertaken by the Revenue department. The government of J&K has miserably failed to comply by the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme for updating of land records. Shockingly the programme was launched in year 2008 by the government of India and it has been 12 years that the J&K government is still not able to complete the process due to corruption and red tapism.

In a recently held meeting by Pawan Kotwal who is the Financial Commissioner Revenue, it was told by the Deputy Commissioner of Jammu Sushma Chauhan that against the 915 Jammabandis in Jammu district, 623 have been updated so far. She also told that 129 Jamabandis are also ready and require verification by the concerned patwaris/ Girdawars. She further informed that 151 Jammabandis have been digitized, while the remaining 472 are in process of digitization.

The reluctance of the officials of Revenue department to digitize the land records is evident from the fact that only nearly 1.65 crore revenue documents had been scanned out of a whopping 6.66 crore documents that included 58.77 lakh in Kashmir and almost 106 lakh in Jammu till December 2017. The work on computerization of the documents had started in year 2008 across the country and most of the states have completed the work till now.

According to an official of J&K government, the computerization of land records in J&K was supposed to be taken up in three phases. In the first phase, digitization of land records in Jammu and Srinagar was to be taken while in the second phase districts including Rajouri, Poonch, Ramban, Baramulla, Bandipora, Doda, Leh, Udhampur, Anantnag and Kargil were to be taken up and in the third phase remaining district of the state. However Leh and Kargil now fall in the UT of Ladakh but the work of digitization has not completed even then. In the third phase the remaining districts were supposed to be covered. Delay in completion of first phase will impact the second phase and would impact its completion.

Jammu and Kashmir is already on the bottom of pedestal of National Council of Applied Economic Research Land Record and Services Index that, a New Delhi based think tank. Only three states and UTs including Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were ranked at the bottom. Ladakh was a part of J&K till last year and the ranking came in March 2020, thus it could be inferred that Ladakh had to face the impact of corrupt Revenue department of J&K for years.

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