10 firms team up over digital land records
The land record system is up for automation with the help of some local IT firms -- a step that promises to reduce hassles and disputes originating from the existing process.
Fake ownership of lands spawns criminal activities in Bangladesh, according to a study. More than 80 percent of criminal activities stem from land disputes, according to the Association for Land Reform and Development, a nongovernmental organisation.
Ten local IT firms have come forward to introduce a digital mapping and land revenue management system. The firms have already formed a company, Terra Tech Ltd, and sought a government go-ahead to start work. The law ministry has hinted at the green light.
Once the system is automated, landowners or buyers will not need to visit more than 10 government offices for documents. All the documents will be uploaded to a database, to which the government officials and people, in some cases, will have access.
"Land management needs reforms immediately with a fully secured automated system," said Mahboob Zaman, chairman of Terra Tech. He said initially the company will start digitalising land records and registration process of Dhaka by June this year.
Terra Tech has already developed a business model to run the project and urged the government to take it under public-private partnership initiative.
Citing an example, Zaman said the business model could be like that of Chittagong Customs House automation. Zaman's company, Data Soft, automated the customs house under a deal with the government where both the parties share revenue after a certain period.
"Terra Tech will provide land management services in a few minutes in a sharp contrast to days or weeks required under the existing system. The cost will be lowered and the services will go on uninterrupted," said Habibullah N Karim, president of Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services.
"The entire infrastructure for the land record system will be built without any government investment," said Karim whose company, Technohaven Group, is also a member of Terra Tech.
Data Soft, IBCS-PRIMAX Software (Bangladesh) Ltd, Development Planners & Consultants, Business Automation, Techno Vista, Spectrum, E-generation, Technohaven, Upload Yourself and HSTC Ltd form Terra Tech, which has estimated around Tk 25 crore for digitising land records and the registration process in Dhaka city.
Dhaka District Collectorate, Settlement Publication Camp, land record and survey departments, and land offices of Demra, Tejgaon, Mirpur, Dhanmondi and Kotowali will be automated initially.
Terra Tech is offering to provide technology, equipment, manpower and required software to set up computer centres in these offices.
Land digitisation is not new for local software makers.
Projects including Modernisation of Land Administration Project (1995-98), Computerisation of Land Management Systems of Dhaka City Project (2004-06), Dhaka, Manikganj and Gazipur Collectorate Land Record Room computerisation (2005-07), Digital Khatian Preparation Programme (2005), Coastal Land Zoning Project (2009) have already been completed by local software companies.
The Bengal Settlement Regulation 1793 is the first initiative of land management in the region. Later in 1889, a cadastral survey was initiated in Bengal. During the Pakistan regime a revise survey was initiated. However, that survey did not complete.
"Absence of a database is the major reason behind land disputes," said Mahmudur Rahman, director of Development Planners & Consultants.
"In line with our plan, it will be a comprehensive link-up of all land-related organisations under a single network," Rahman added.
He said although some digitalisation projects were completed, those did not work because of a lack of maintenance.
He said the existing land records show that maximum lands, even in Dhaka city, are owned by farmers. So, the government is losing a huge amount of revenue from the sector as farmlands are still beyond taxation.
Once the land digitalisation project is completed, the government officials sitting at their offices will be able to see any transformation of lands including infrastructure and ownership.
Bangladesh's land management has been divided in terms of authorisation, which remains as a problem. The land ministry looks after the survey and record issues, while the law ministry handles the registration process.
The Terra Tech president, however, said a fully automated system will ensure the centralisation of land management.