Registered and secure property rights are essential for supporting investment, productivity and growth. The ease of obtaining land is a significant determinant of how easy it is to do business in a country. According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2018 report, India ranks 154 in “Registering Property” out of 190 economies around the world, as opposed to last year’s rank of 138.
The evaluation base don Distance to Frontier scores for Registering Property includes four parameters – number of procedures, cost, time, and quality of land administration. As compared to last year,the number of procedures necessary for registering property, time required and the total official costs involved as a percentage of property value have all gone up, resulting in a drop of 16 places in India’s rank this year. The only improvement that has happened is in the Quality of Land Administration index.
The World Bank Ease of Doing Business study incorporated Quality of Land Administration index in their methodology since 2015. It comprises of five dimensions – reliability of infrastructure, transparency of information, geographic coverage, land dispute resolution, and equal access to property rights. The index ranges from zero to 30, with higher values indicating better quality of the land administration. The inclusion of this index has significantly impacted India’s rank for worse in Registering Property.When we analyze India’s Quality of Land Administration index, as core of eight as per the latest report, we see that the majority of cadastral maps of land plots are still maintained in paper format instead of being computerized. It takes, on an average, more than three years to obtain a decision on a land dispute from the first-instance court (without appeal). Furthermore, a recent study by Daksh finds that matters related to land and property make up about two-thirds of all civil cases in the country.
The computerization of land records and modernization of the land records management system started as early as the 1990s. The Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme, launched in 2008, is a revamped version of the previous efforts of the government. It aims at developing a modern, comprehensive and transparent land records management system in the country in order to move towards a conclusive land-titling system. Land administration in India has improved since the 1990s, albeit, the progress has been slow.
Land-related reforms significantly reduce the threat of reallocation or expropriation, thus facilitating more optimum land use, either through investment or by transferring land from less efficient to more efficient users. They allow the government to have reliable and up-to-date information, which is essential to correctly assess and collect tax revenues as well as strategically plan for infrastructure development and other services. All of these aspects make it imperative to focus on improving India’s standing in terms of Registering Property.
Computerization of land records is either complete or nearing completion in 16 states. However, the process of mutation is computerized in only eight states. It is only in Gujarat and Tripura that the village survey activities are complete. A major challenge is the lack of means for the survey work.Transforming land administration should be one of the primary objectives of the state governments, as the onus of implementation of reforms rests on the States, and it is a pity that they have not made it a priority.