No land survey completed since independenceMahamudul Hasan
Bangladesh, even 42 years after its independence, has neither been able to complete a land survey of the whole country nor finished undertaking a ‘revisional settlement’ survey, which was first launched in 1966 by the then Pakistan government.
In the absence of an up-to-date and comprehensive land survey, issues of ownership have become a longstanding source of conflict, contributing to an ever-growing legal backlog as competing land owners file applications in courts.
Md Abdul Mannan, director general of the land records and surveys department, told New Age that no basic reforms had taken place in the land sector since the country’s independence.
‘As an independent nation, we are supposed to have a basic land survey but we could not do it,’ he said.
When the British were the colonial power of the region, they conducted the first land survey in Bangladesh, a cadastral survey which started in 1890 and completed in 1940.
After Pakistan had been created in 1947, the Pakistan government conducted a survey, State Acquisition Survey, from 1956 to 1963.
The Pakistan government also started a revisional settlement survey in 1966 to reduce difficulties faced by the public as the state acquisition survey resulted in thousands of civil cases being filed over land ownership.
After independence, the land records and surveys department has so far only completed the revisional settlement survey in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Pabna, Kushtia and Mymensingh.
The survey is continuing in Faridpur, Barisal, Comilla, Noakhali, Sylhet, Tangail, Jamalpur, Dinajpur, Rangpur and Patuakhali.
Abdul Mannan said that after independence, the department only began its own work on the RS survey in Mymensingh in 1979, which was finished in 2012, in a period of 33 years.
He held a lack of proper supervision and coordination and inadequacy in workmanship within the department responsible for the whole RS survey not being completed in the 42 years since independence.
‘Generally, the RS survey in a mauza is supposed to be completed within five years but now it takes more than a decade mainly because of the crisis of workmanship,’ he said adding that
against the allocated 7,463 positions, his department has only 3263 personnel.
Land records officials said that as the state acquisition survey and records had no ‘presumptive value,’ it resulted in thousands of new civil cases being filed across the country.
They said that because of its faults, owners regularly find that their property has been either sold to others without their knowledge or occupied, and the real owners are then forced to file cases in an attempt to get their land back.
Md Abdul Bari Bhuiyan, a deputy assistant settlement officer, said that as the revisional survey could not be completed, people of many areas of the country were dealing with land affairs, including land transfer, based on the faulty SA survey and records.
‘Generally, a revisional survey should start within 25-30 years after a previous such survey. However, we could not finish this survey started 47 years ago. Meanwhile, the RS that we have conducted in several districts including Rajshahi, Chittagong, Pabna and Kushtia will have to start again as the 30 years has passed since the survey was started,’ he said.
Sources close to the land records and surveys said that the government in 2011 had given approval to a project to conduct a revisional survey in Dinajpur, Pabna, Rajshahi, Kushtia, Jamalpur, Chittagong, Patuakhali and Tangail and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The survey, however, could not be started in the last couple of years because of manpower crisis, they said.
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