One of the first e-Governance projects that was taken up in Karnataka on a war-footing has just reached a definitive phase. Bhoomi ('Earth' in Kannada language) project was kicked off at the turn of the millennium with the gargantuan task of computerizing all agricultural land records in the state.
Six years of existence have driven away all fears and the state's farmers have ungrudgingly embraced this move. The success has been so high that the Central government has adopted the Bhoomi model as the official model to be adopted across all states in India for computerization of land records. What is so unique about this model that it has met with such resounding success. We need to delve a little deeper
The whole project involved setting up kiosks across the various taluks (counties) in the state. With 203 kiosks set up all over the state, farmers were invited by the government to submit their records for computerization. With lot of publicity about how this would ease life for farmers, the bargain paid off. 20 million (2 crore) land records of 6.7 million(67 lakh) land owners were computerized with farmer contributing Rs. 61.94 crore rupees as service fees to the exchequer. However life has been much easier for them ever since the kiosks appeared. Why so?
- Retrieval of land records by farmers is a child' play. They go to the nearest kiosk, pay Rs 15 as service charge and within 2 minutes they are handed over a printed copy of their land record. Simple as it may seem, old timers recall that this routine task used to take up to 30 days before the implementation of the Bhoomi project.
- Farmers can also have title changes done in just 35 days as against the previous 200 days that it used to take.
- Each kiosk has touch screens that allow farmers to keep track of how services requested by them are progressing. In case services take longer, the farmer is entitled to directly go to the taluk head and demand an immediate look into the cause.
- Land records are also frequently used by farmers as collateral to raise bank loans and credit lines. With the Bhoomi project, a farmer can directly ask the banks to link his land record online with the credit link extended to him. This ensures that he can work up bank loans within 5 days.
- The same holds true with the courts. Land litigation cases take lesser time to resolve with computerized records.
- Overcoming bureaucracy and doing away with the regular palm greasing that had to be done to the village officials to get the land records earlier has removed the smirk from the farmer's face.
Even on the security front, Bhoomi scores several points. Bhoomi has a biometric fingerprint system built in for security. Any major service like a title change requested by a farmer requires key official in the upper echelons of the system to validate it via their finger prints. This ensures that the system is virtually tamper proof.
What has the government gained from it? Lots, one might even go tot the extent of saying that the government and not the farmers are the project's biggest beneficiaries. With the biometric security enabled Bhoomi project, the government has totally done away with losses incurred due to land record tampering. 2500 crores was the total loss in Bangalore alone due to land record tampering before 2000. That should put things in perspective. The other gain is the ease with which the government can regulate land revenue, bring about changes in laws that regulate land revenue. The software also enables the administrators to generate various reports based on type of soil, land holding size, type of crops grown etc. This information would enable administrators to take informed policy decision.
No wonder then the Bhoomi project won the Silver Icon at the 7th National e-Governance Conference, the Silver at the CommonWealth Innovation Awards in 2002 and was the finalist at the Stockholm Challenge Awards, 2002.
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