By: Arshad Dijoo
It is reported that the first settlement of land in Kashmir was done under the supervision of Raja TodarMal during the regime of emperor Akbar after he annexed Kashmir when the last king of Kashmir Yusuf Shah Chak was arrested by deceit when he couldn’t be vanquished. And after prolonged imprisonment, later Yusuf Shah was exiled to Biswas in Bihar on the intervention of some influential nobels of Akbar’s Darbar. He was given a jaghir of biswas. Finally he died and lies buried there.
Further as we know the final settlement of land here was done during Dogra rule by the then British settlement commissioner Sir Walter Lawrence, who based himself in Pattan area of present Baramulla district. And he thoroughly carried out the modern land settlement.
Lawrence travelled and surveyed the entire Kashmir during his mammoth exercise of land settlement and in the meantime he got acquainted with the life of a common Kashmiri. Later his interface with Kashmiri life prompted him to pen down his experiences in his famous book, “The Valley of Kashmir”, which is considered as the encyclopedia of Kashmir history.
And it is due to the said land settlement & bandobast carried out by Walter Lawrence that we have modern day land records to rely upon and the whole of the revenue exercises of present day revenue department are based upon it.
The record holds sanctity and the said bandobast of Lawrence is the basis of our land records here. It’s true that the settlement of Walter Lawrence done in Kashmir forms the basis of the entire revenue services and data managed by the revenue department. And it’s equally correct that the said settlement has been successfully providing us the basis of interpreting the land data here.
But the same settlement upon which the entire picture stands is to be carried on for future and preserved. And there may be only one remedy for all this and that is digitisation and updation of the said records and the consequent transparency that will be infused into the revenue services and the system prevalent here.
With this revenue extracts shall be digitally available online for each landholder and the policy planners will get a better picture of the revenue landscape.
The aim obviously is to get a thorough foolproof digitised land record data available, which shall bring an ease to the administration and the public equally.
And certainly times have arrived for a better government-public interface.
The aim is to streamline the system and weed out discrepancies and by preserving and putting up the data online it will give equal access to both the general public as well as departmental functionaries. And in this manner the digitised data will prove more helpful to our planners and to the executing agencies and it will aid towards the establishing of smart cities and towns where land data is easily accessible and plan formations face lesser hurdles and bottlenecks.
And with the changing times necessarily there needs to be updation and modernisation of the said records to put in more clarity and efficiency into the system and weed out chances of discrepancies that may have creeped into the system throughout the past. Moreover the digitisation is equally meant to benefit the public as well as the government.
By digitisation and updating is meant that we are digitally feeding all the records into our computers to bring more efficiency and transparency. Nowhere shall there be any iota of confusion or dark sides left in the system of land management thereby cutting down the chances of “malpractices” inherent in the system of revenue administration.
No more there shall be people standing in queues or huddled in large numbers at the camp offices of halqa patwaris or other revenue officials for seeking basic services like revenue extracts, jamahbhandis, girdawaris, etc. And there won’t be any more pleadings and requests for the basic revenue services. The Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA) had made some positive impact but that too only for the alert citizenry.
Now what digitisation would do is that it will put out the land records in open for the government and the general public. While as people will be able to download their revenue extracts online and can even apply for other services by the click of the button and things will be crystal clear and in a similar manner the governmental agencies will be able to get a clear vision of the data pertaining to the land availabilities and hence scope for development and betterment will be envisioned by our policy planners in a much relevant manner and there shall be a paradigm shift in our perceptions and assessments vis-à-vis the land use policy.
Such a ready to peep, ready to comprehend and ready to avail land data will be an aid to the development a shot in the arm and a help in transforming the landscape of our valley in particular. The policy planners and visualisers shall get benefitted in this manner the impacts of which shall be visible in near future.
And equally the digitisation will be helpful to weed out “corruption” from all the offices of the revenue in the field.
Moreover even petty encroachers of public land may easily be identified as the “veils” shall be lifted permanently.
Therefore it’s a win-win situation for the people here that the digitisation will bring both transparency in the system and give a big boost to the developmental activities in a planned and schematic manner.
Hence digitisation is a welcome step and its completion will bring hopefully better results.
(The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)