Feb 2010 | One Comment

India needs the Land Titling project ‘yesterday’! not tomorrow or day after
Consider the scenario, date 1.1.2020: “Mr. A buys property in Meerut, city in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India from Mr. B in Dec 2019. The ownership-title that Mr. B is the Owner, is guaranteed by the Government Registrar. As a matter of fact, all the properties with the names of their owner(s) are recorded centrally in the computer in the office of Land Survey Department of UP. The location like trees and wells, etc are all photographed on an aerial photograph. The coordinates of the building have also been recorded taking the help of the most accurate technology of global positioning system (GPS). Central survey organization, an offshoot of the Survey of India and NSDI, had been entrusted with this titling project, which started in 2010.”

Do you agree, with the above scenario? Doubtful? You don’t have to be. Many countries of the developing world, namely, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines have finished substantial part of their land titling project. United Kingdom has also enacted Land Registration Act, 2004.

Compare with the present status

Land Registration Act, 1908
Only documents are registered under this Act. Interestingly, for argument sake, Taj Mahal can be gifted by Mr. A to Mr. B and the gift deed can be registered. The property is only ‘described’ by the ‘delineation’ details of the boundary. The proper location in survey terms (coordinates) are not stated. Law Commission, in its sixth report, 1957 did take up this subject but made recommendations only to improve the provisions of the Act (Registration Act). Nowhere we find the ‘vision’ of guaranteeing the ownership of the property. It is this lacuna, a mega one, (of absolute ownership) which is being addressed in this paper.

Major and lasting advantages of land –titling system

Land titling project (LTP) will provide lasting and epoch making advantages to the nation. Some of those are:

Assured ownership of the property
The government, after due diligence, will guarantee the ownership. This will greatly enhance the trustworthiness of the thousands of land-transactions taking place in the country. People will have secure land-tenure, devoid of all hassles. Compare this with million of man day lost in going to courts, notices in the press and spending loads of money.

Reduce litigation regarding land and property
Look at these alarming figures! At one time (1980) West Bengal state had 80,000 writ petitions pertaining to only land related cases which keep going on and on for years. Consider the backlog in terms of all, the states and involved people. ‘Pucca Registry’ will greatly reduce land – related cases through better land tenure. Banks will find it easier to offer credit as it is already happening for regular Patta Holders .

Quality of life
The project on Land Titling is not only a technology project but it is indeed, a people-project guaranteeing major improvements in quality of life. Crores of low/high income persons alike will benefit from it. In Thailand where the fruits of such a project have reached the masses prove a better quality of life.

Super objectives of the project

• To create a state –wide, computer based, State Property Register acting as a source of providing information on the ownership of land / property in its final basis.

• The time taken to get the desired information/certificate should not exceed four hours (half-day) at the designated office (say, Tehsildars office)

• The process of obtaining the desired certificate should involve minimum legal support from professional community.

• Proper provisions will be made to update/ revise the records.


Municipal corporation, panchayat and such like organizations will be provided opportunity for strengthening the system.

Role of modern land-information technologies (LIT)

LIT will play a major role in laying the strong foundation to the whole concept and operational methodologies of the Titling –Project. Specifically:

Field control on the ground
The laid-down accuracy will be such so as to withstand the requirement of most accurate measurement (area, length, etc). The requirements of the permanent – control points on the ground should meet the required inputs for relaying the boundary etc. of the plot. Undoubtedly, GPS will be the mainstay.

Survey of topographical details
Boundaries, topographical features and permanent objects/marks.

Revision policy of surveyed information and secondary data.

Criteria for surveys

Lessons based on the experience of Thailand –Titling project are to be incorporated in Indian project. Some of these points are mentioned below:

• In case, it becomes necessary, the property boundary should be recreated/relocated on the ground. It implies that adequate number of permanent markers/witnesses should be deliberately left on the ground.

• The accuracy-specifications of the survey should be able to cater to the cost of land, present and future and operations, for example, land – acquisition, etc.

• The technology and operations should be so designed so as to cater to the revision cycle, changes on the ground due to nature (floods etc.) or man –made activities e.g. mutations, transfer, sale, etc.

Recommended LIT

A methodology for undertaking modern cadastral surveys has already been suggested by the author in 2005. (2). It is briefly described as under.

Aerial photography of the area on 1:20,000 scale is recommended.

GPS Control – Differential GPS; all Trijunctions, (permanent marks/pillars on the ground) are to be ground controlled. Sketches of all GPS control points to be made for helping photogrammetric process.

Photogrammetric process – Aerial triangulation (or similar process) combined with the Digital terrain models is to be completed. Photogrammtric rectification, plotting or Digital Orthophotos are to be prepared. Terrain will dictate the choice of technical process.

Cadastral records – Revenue authorities should take over this important operation. The fact remains that this is the most important phase of the project.

Legal operations – Allocating ownerships and preparation of records/certificates etc. putting information on computers.

Optional (yet important) information about land

• Heights of objects can be determined.

• Information about soils, vegetation, drainage, geology, etc. can be picked up with an eye on GIS mapping.

Unique Identity number to each plot/property in India

Government of India has already constituted unique identification authority (see box no 2). The idea behind this scheme is to provide unique number to each individual citizen of India. A similar plea is being made under the land titling project, to allot a unique plot number to each property in India irrespective of whether the property is rural or urban. The system should be based on GPS coordinates. It will one day, be possible to see the plot/building on internet for any place in India. The author has suggested that NSDI and Survey of India, in their newly evolved role, should, perhaps, take this as their objective. Space does not permit full discussion of this point. But surely, Survey of India, true to its name in real sense, will get connected directly to each land / property holder in India. The above mentioned land and property data-base will provide reliable, useful, timely inputs to many schemes including land acquisition and taxation. For USA plots, try

Historical facts

The survey responsibility of cadastral (revenue) surveys was delegated to the state land surveys department in 1905. Consequently, the technology of surveys remained stagnant; without inputs from modern technology of aerial photography, photogrammetry, GPS,GIS etc. It in only in eighties (1981) that some thoughts on computer applications combined with aerial photography were given to produce revenue (patwari) maps – example from Madhya Pradesh. Currently, computerization of land records is being carried out throughout India.

What other countries are doing in land-titling?

Some lessons


Government of Thailand (Land Survey Department) was assisted by Australian Aid Agency in undertaking the project for land titling in 1981. The project was designed, inter alia, to produce cadastral surveys and to issue title deeds. This project was recognized as one of the most successful projects by the United Nations. It met all the objectives including establishment of Land Evaluation Authority.

Vietnam, Phillipines and Russia also have progressed well in the issue of Land Titles. There were initial difficulties pertaining to the institutional complexities of land ownership due to political doctrines. Russian project is, incidentally, managed by USA Aid Agency. These projects are well referenced on internet under Land Titling Projects.

Lesson from foreign projects

Some lessons are very vivid and inspire confidence that replication of Land Titling Projects are bound to succeed, if proper thinking in conceptualization, implementing, institution building and participation of all stake-holders is ensured. Most important factor for success is whole – hearted support from highest echelon of the Government.

To enumerate further, some other lessons are:

The time and money spent on court procedures presently in acquiring the title is much more than evolving a simple procedure for Land Title Project. The benefits are widespread through the community.

The base is already available in the form of Land Survey Departments. The departments have to be guided, channelized, equipped, trained and mentored to deliver the result.

Most importantly, Government’s strong will is required as it happened in NAREGA (National rural employment guarantee act) project in India.

Special points for urban properties

In principle, the main features of Land Titling Project will be fully applicable to the properties in urban areas. It is however, obvious that more rigorous methods of survey will be required. This is because of higher value of land. Surveys will have to be more accurate. Consequently, those technologies which give more accurate results will be employed. Some specific discussion is, therefore, needed.

Survey technology

In urban areas even 1 square foot of land has value not only in terms of money but it is also important to sort out encroachments and boundary disputes in courts. The technology of photogrammetry, in its accurate application, is capable of mapping even 10cm of ground. A larger scale of aerial photography, say, 1:6000 is recommended as compared to 1:20,000 for rural areas. In many cases in India, the mapping has been done on 1:1000 scale. Photogrammetry is a proven technology in India. It is also a fact that urban areas comprise conglomeration of buildings or close cluster of settlements which create shadows on an aerial photograph. In such cases, a partial map (whatever can be done) by photogrammetry can be produced. The partial map can be computed by filling in missing portions by ground methods.

Land use of town

Town planners need this information which can be obtained from aerial photographs and verification on the ground.

GPS control points and leveling bench marks
It is a prudent idea to create a close mesh of GPS and Level-Bench Marks in a big town. Engineers will need these points for their projects.

Environmental bench – marking of towns
Aerial photographs provide excellent data-base for these environmental features and vegetations and other environment features like lakes, etc.

Concept of ownerships of multi-storeyed apartments, shops etc.

Multi-storeyed buildings are common feature of a town. How do we determine the legal records, unique-property numbers? The problem can be solved by adopting space ownerships practices. The subject can be studied further keeping in view the system adopted in Mumbai. Our practices could be compared with what is followed in western countries and Australia. Indeed, this could be a subject for further research under titling project.

Nilekani’s unique individual number

Unique identification authority (UIA) is headed by Mr Mandan Nilekani, former CEO of famous Infosys. He is evolving a unique identification number for each citizen of India. Taking the cue from this UIA, it will be prudent that there should be a unique identity of all land and property in India. GPS technology will of course, be the mainstay of the system. How will this be evolved should be a matter of research, technical discussions and seminars.

External catalyst organizations will expedite the Land Titling Project

The titling-project will definitely need to record the experience of other countries. We may have to borrow their experts. In such a case, it will be wise to have some collaborations with World Bank, Asian Development Bank or similar organizations. Even funding may be possible through these organizations. It is also experienced that foreign collaborative project gains momentum, priority and acceptability by our own government department in central, state or level.

Making a beginning

A good beginning could be made by the Ministry of Rural Development by creating an Advisory cum Steering Committee on the subject. After all Titling Project is a follow up of land records project under the Rural Development ministry. The committee may be constituted on a broad-base comprising academics and practitioners.


India needs the Land Titling project ‘yesterday’! not tomorrow or day after. We need to make a good beginning through a Steering Committee, as mentioned, who will identify the main ‘pillars’ and the ‘milestones’ of the project. This is a mega-project which is expected to bring major change. Therefore all the principles of management of change will be applicable to this project also. The project should be evolved in such a way that is not only ‘right’ but is ‘acceptable’ to all, especially rural people.

A brand new project always generates need for training, research, standards and reference. Let these be started on a sound footing. The research action can even be started now, ahead of titling project. The State Departments of Land Surveys have all the knowledge and wisdom. These must be utilized. There is no of a fresh technology. Every system/technological input has been tested and tried in India. If properly managed, nurtured and monitored, the project on land-titling is bound to succeed.


[1] World bank reports on land titling Bowman, Chakriya; Thailand Land Titling Project.
[2] Misra, P; Cadastral Surveys in India, June 2005, Coordinates
[3] Misra P; Cadastral Surveys in India-A critique, Seminar on cadastral survey organized by gisdevelopment Oct, 2000
[4] Searches on internet provide immense information on the subject.

Prof P Misra

Consultant, Land Information Technologies
My Coordinates
Land administration for sustainable development
The First Asia Oceania Regional Workshop, Survey camp
Mark your calendar
March 2010 to November 2010

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One Comment »

  • gmarnham said:


    I read your article with some interest.

    I have recently retired after 45 years with Landgate in Western Australia.

    Landgate deals with the registration of all things to do with land in our state.

    It uses the’ Torrens system’ of land titling and is the best in the world. You mention Vietnam but Landgate through its International program has been endeavoring to promote our system abroad.

    You did not mention our organisation and therefore I was not sure whether you were aware that we existed.

    One of the latest initiatives Landgate has put in place is the ‘CORES’ system. This sees the placement of ‘permanent survey marks’ around the state which have very accurate coordinates allocated to them and which are connected to the existing geodetic system of marks.

    We have the state with all its land boundaries (identified by plan and Lot number) on a digital data base. A person can readily obtain a plan together with all dimensions, a copy of the certificate of title showing the history of land transaction and obtain copies of Transfers of Land, caveats, mortgages… etc

    Please visit the web site via the above URL if interested.


    Gil Marnham

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