Revenue Department goes digital—what does it mean for Kashmiri landholders?
In this piece, a serving patwari argues how digitizing of revenue records will create fresh disputes and litigations in the society and keep the revenue department on its toes.
The revenue department’s foot-soldiers—patwaries—have already found number of mistakes while digitalizing the revenue records in Kashmir. But while correcting errors is essential to relieve the general public from trauma, the expose is bound to unsettle many in the valley.
Serving Kashmir’s oldest and important institute, patwaries maintain the essential land records—in the form of Jamabandies, Girdawaries, Mutation registers, records of rights, Fardi portal, etc—ready for reference to the government in particular and the public in general.
They categorize the land into Agriculture, Non-agriculture, Banjri jaded, Bangri Qadeem, among others.
Jamabandi is an essential document containing all the information of different types of land mentioned with different survey numbers.
A survey number is a fixed index given to a piece of land during settlement in an estate.
It’s believed that reading of Jamabandi form—having twelve columns—is a very specialized task of revenue officials. It’s beyond the comprehension of general masses.
But in the present scenario, everybody should’ve a basic knowledge of revenue records. One should know how each column in Jamabandi form depicts unique information.
Jamabandi is also called “char sala” meaning it is written after an interval of four years. The mutations attested from the previous revenue record of an estate needs to be incorporated in the remarks column of that Jamabandi with red ink as these entries become visible. The entries in the Khanakast should be tallied with the current Girdawari.
Maximum Jamabandies of all the estate were prepared in year 1969-70 and 1970-71 before the commencement of Agrarian Reforms Act.
After a gap of twenty years, new Jamabandies were prepared—from 1992-93, 1993-1994, 1994-1995 till 1999—in all estates of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Even though the then officials prepared this essential document, maximum Jamabandies were not checked and signed by the attesting officials.
This unattested record gave birth to many embezzlements and litigations. Number of suits are still pending in many competent courts (revenue and civil) for judgments. This stalled justice has only troubled poor people losing ownership rights to land-mafia.
But in 2017, after a gap of almost 30 years, Land Records Information System was launched in J&K in the name of “Aap Ki Zameen Aap Ki Nigrani” under the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme.
All the revenue records of the country were made available online after scanning all the previous documents. This digitization process was done in collaboration with M/S Ram Tech Solutions.
The scanned printouts were handed over to revenue authorities at the Tehsil level and read before Zamindars for cross-checking of entries in Khanna Milkiyat, Khanna Kasht, Survey number, Area involved and essentially, updation of mutations, if any.
Amid the ongoing digitization drive, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are checking their land records at the common service centres. It has reduced rush in Tehsil, District and Central Record Rooms.
The online system is a single-window handling land records, enhancing transparency, reducing property disputes, saving resources and time for land acquisition.
It helps buyers and sellers to check the exact market rate and shows clarity over ownership status, online approval of plans and occupancy certificates. It has reduced court cases and litigations as well.
Apart from checking land mafia, the digitalization process of revenue records is curbing manipulation and has improved the output of revenue officials.
The pace and progress of the work is noteworthy. Ever since new Jamabandies started in 2016, almost all 6912 villages under a patwari got completed till 15th August 2021.
These Jamabandies were either prepared by retired revenue department officials or a patwari himself. But without proper cross-checking, they were deposited in Regional Director Land Records (RDLR) for scanning.
The department would verify these written documents and call patwaries for cross-check and correction. After scanning of land records, the revenue department would follow the settlement commissioner’s directive to read the entries in Jamabandies before public for correction.
However, instead reading these essential documents, the department engaged all the field functionaries as computer operators from other departments in digitalizing these Jamabandies.
After the digitalizing process, these newly-prepared Jamabandies will become available for the public domain.
However, its impact on society will be dangerous. Fresh disputes and litigations will arise and somewhere the department will be on the toes.
And therefore, it’s suggested that once the digitalization—done on war-footing—is complete, these Jamabandies should be read before zamindars and mistakes should be rectified before making it an online document.
But as the manual work has ended, the employees of the department can focus keenly towards difficult work ahead, like settlement. The work will be done faster and mistakes will be fewer.
And since transparency is critical for a long-term success, the digital monitoring will only boost the revenue department’s visibility.
However, the pattern—updating Jamabandi in every four year—was not followed in past, rendering a good number of Jamabandies redundant in last five decades.
The failure to set the records straight has put some of my colleagues in a tight spot now.
All changes in title and interests of the estate coming into the notice of revenue department were not reflected in these Jamabandies as was found visible when these Jamabandies were re-verified at Regional Director Land Records Offices.
To get the job done, some patwaries would previously hire retired revenue officials at the fixed re-numeration ranging from Rs 2500 to one lakh rupees. But now, the digital re-verification has fixed the fault.
This re-verification process is mandatory to check wrong entries and clear doubts. Among other things, it checks encroachment and land mafia, especially in urban areas.
However, land owners may have to run from pillar to post to get their records corrected in the digitized paths. The task will be huge in Jammu and Kashmir. The revenue department itself will find this difficult after the documents are made online.
Mohd Amin Mir Patwari from District Anantnag presently posted as Incharge District Record room Anantnag.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir. Feedback and counter-views are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.