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No reforms in land administration

Mahamudul Hasan

The government has not taken any steps to reform the land administration since the country’s independence  although recommendations were made in this regard about 13 years ago. 
The Bangladesh Land Administration Reform Project submitted its final report in 2001 with a number of recommendations including the introduction of a plot-based certificate for land ownership—which would be a single authoritative record of land ownership—to replace all existing records.
However, in the last decade nothing has been done to implement this or any of the other recommendations which were part of the project, started in 1995 to bring reform to the country’s land administration system.
The project covered a 26-year timeframe for completion of surveys and recording of plot-based land ownership rights for an estimated 150 million land plots in the country.
State minister for land administration Saifuzzaman Chowdhury told New Age that he was unaware of the project. ‘I am unaware of the project. However, I would go through the feasibility study of the project and review its recommendations if I find it,’ he said, adding that he was undertaking some initiatives to make the service delivery of land sector easy.      
Officials at land ministry and department of land records and surveys said that a statutory body of Western Australia government known as Landgate, in association with other local and international organisations, conducted the feasibility study from 1995 to 2000 in three phases under the project which was financed by the Asian Development Bank.
The draft final report of the feasibility study was submitted in February 2001.
A steering committee formed by the land ministry reviewed the report and recommended that the timeframe of implementation period of the project should be 20 years instead of 40 years.
In December 2001, the ADB submitted the final report on the feasibility study and the project proposal with a 26-year implementation timeframe at a proposed cost of US$ 55.96 million to introduce a new land administration system.
A cabinet meeting on December 21, 2002 approved the project in principle and the Project Concept Paper was sent to the Planning Commission on January 18, 2003.
One of deputy secretaries at land ministry, preferring anonymity, said that no major steps had been taken since then for implementation of the project even though a decade has passed.
Md Abdul Mannan, director general of the department of land records and surveys, told New Age that after taking over responsibility of the DLRS office he had to find out the documents, which had remained shelved for years, and he sent them to land ministry.
‘But so far as I know, no steps have been taken till today to either implement the project or any of the recommendations of the feasibility study for bringing basic reforms in the land administration,’ he said.
Abdul Mannan said that implementation of the proposals could provide positive changes in the land survey and records system, and would ensure transparency at every step as well as quick delivery of services.
‘It would help restore trust and confidence among the people over land transaction and reduce corruption significantly,’ he said.
The feasibility study highlighted a number of issues, problems and disadvantages associated with the current land administration system.
From the institutional perspective, the study found that the present system involving three different land ownership records and land administration functions were not carried out by a single government agency but by three different government authorities – khatiyan (ledger) at land ministry, mutation at public administration ministry and deed of transfer at the law ministry.
Several uncoordinated offices deal with the present land administration system making the whole process of land transfer and record updating complex and cumbersome, said the feasibility study.
From the legal perspective, the study found that no current land records could authenticate land ownership and no current land law had been designed to authorise or possess the degree of integrity could bind the courts and have the capacity to protect transacting parties.
The study of the project recommended the introduction in phases over a period of 26 years a plot-based certificate of land ownership system and a single government agency for land affairs which would abolish the tasks of assistant commissioner (land) and sub-registrar practiced under the present system.
The ownership certificate would be the authoritative document of land and would represent lawful ownership. With the introduction of certificate, the transfer of land by registered deed would no longer be required.

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