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Kerala Government Insists On Submission Of Aadhaar For Digital Land Survey

Kerala government’s drive to undertake mapping of land records is in sync with the Indian government’s plans to digitise 100 percent of land records by 2024.

The Kerala government has mandated submission of Aadhaar for digital land surveys carried out by the revenue department in order to begin Aadhaar-based mapping of land, according to a report by Maathrubhumi. The drive to collect such information during land surveys comes amid people’s resistance to link their Aadhaar details with the State government’s project to assign a Unique Thandaper Number (UTN) to land parcels.

According to a report by The New Indian Express, the UTN project was initiated in 2020 to streamline land records and to determine total land owned by an individual. According to the officials from the revenue department, the UTN number is expected to assist in revenue recovery, settle property disputes, and identify benami properties or land that is owned by an individual through proxies or sometimes under the name of a non-existent person.

The State government had already kickstarted the process to link Aadhaar with the 13-digit UTN in 2021. By collecting Aadhaar details through the current digital surveys, the officials aim to fill gaps in the UTN records with the collected information. According to Mathrubhumi’s report, the State officials have also communicated with the IT Ministry to include Aadhaar information in the surveys.

Why it matters:

Kerala government’s drive to undertake mapping of land records is in sync with the Indian government’s plans to digitise 100 percent of land records by 2024. Kerala is also one among the 28 States and UTs that have adopted the National Generic Document Registration System (NGDRS), a digital portal for maintaining land records, launched by the Ministry of Rural Development. Additionally, the State government had recently indicated that they need at least four years to implement the Bhu-Aadhaar or Unique Land Parcel Identification Number of the Central government. Bhu-Aadhaar is another scheme of the Union government to generate a 14-digit alpha-numeric number, which will serve as a “single, authoritative source of truth of information on any parcel of land or property to provide integrated land services to the citizens as well as all stakeholders”.

Can Aadhaar be used for documenting land records?

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In 2020, the Telangana High Court had issued a stay order on the State government’s move to collect Aadhaar and Caste details of property owners on the ‘Dharani’ portal. The HC had observed that Aadhaar details cannot be collected for non-welfare purposes and can only use such details for establishing identity with regards to welfare schemes.

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The Court had also raised concerns related to security of people’s personal information and stated that the data being collected is prone to leakage and potential abuse by the State, which can violate an individual’s privacy rights as well.

“It is rather obvious that the State will not lose anything if the people were not to reveal their caste, or not to mention their Aadhaar number while uploading the details of the agricultural land. However, the people at large will lose vital, and personal information which as mentioned above, may be subjected to grave peril. Even with regard to the non-agricultural land, people will be forced to reveal their sensitive personal data or information. Thus, it is the people who will suffer a setback while the State has nothing to lose,” the Court emphasized.

The Telangana HC’s observations are important as the above-mentioned grounds for objection can apply to other states as well. Further, while digitisation and mapping of land records is projected as a solution to tackling the issue of excess property ownership, and land disputes, it is important to note that errors in mapping the areas as per physical demarcations, lack of documentation, manipulation of digital records, and uncertainties surrounding ways to challenge digital records on the basis of existing rules, also present serious challenges to the process.

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Written By

Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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