PM Narendra Modi’s brainchild, the Swamitv Yojna (scheme), is yet another proof that ‘where there is a will, there is a way!’
India being a developing country is always in need of investments and the sources of funds seem to be so few and so finite. The governments- Union as well as state governments- always endeavor to make funds available in cash or in kind but in these times of pandemic, the inflow of funds have decelerated. It is in this backdrop that the importance of Swamitv Yojna grows manifold.
The plan is a bold step in the direction of empowering the people of rural India and helping them unlock the potential of their most valuable asset- their own dwellings, big and small.
Ankit Mehta, writing for Business World (Oct 7, 2020) describes it as a scheme that will “not only elevate the economy by unlocking the potential of rural India by formalizing land ownership but also boost the nation’s capabilities in hi-tech manufacturing and will lead to exponential growth in job creation.”
Background of the scheme:
SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) is the outcome of well-coordinated, synergetic efforts of Survey of India (SO), the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Department and State Revenue Department. Launched as a pilot that will cover nearly one lakh villages in the six states of UP, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, it can become a solid source of collateral for bank funding for the villagers who form nearly 70% of all India population.
The scheme’s aim is to provide definitive official documentation in respect of all the dwelling units across 6.5 lakh villages in India, which for now have no official papers to show their legal entity.
The scheme involves mapping of village properties by use of SOI’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, commonly called Drones). The drone-based exercise will achieve mapping of settled habitations in villages (abaadi areas). The maps will be further validated with the help of an empowered committee of local revenue officials who will endeavor to ensure that accurate maps are produced for all village properties. After the due process, the villages will get property cards as well as proper legal titles to their lands.
A village house is often the most valuable asset of most villagers and once they get verified property card for their properties, they would be able to leverage the property to get loans from the banks very easily. A house is after all the most bankable collateral anywhere in the world. The property cards will thus provide the villagers a valuable asset ID that can help them raise funds for small ventures.
Report from Uttarakhand
As per the Census 2011 data, there are about 16,826 villages in the thirteen districts of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand can be broadly divided in three parts- (1) the Upper hills of Pitharogarh, Bagheshwar, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi & Chamoli; (2) the Middle hills of Pauri Garhwal, Tehri-Garhwal, Almora and Champawat, the hills of Nainital and Chakrata tehsil in Dehradum; and (3) the remaining areas of Haridwar, Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar and remaining area of Nainital. Except of the recent reverse migration from cities to the villages, the state of Uttarakhand has seen wholesale migration of people from villages to cities in search of jobs. Villagers not only migrate from upper and middle hills to foothills of Uttarakhand but also to cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, even for jobs that require hardly any special skills.
As per the website downtoearth.org the rate of people migrating from Uttarakhand villages to cities is nearly 250 people a day. The main reason for the migration is of course the quest for better job opportunities in cities. Another reason is the lack of bank finances as there are no collaterals with the villagers that can assist them in getting loans from Bank to start small scale ventures. With the introduction of property cards, the villagers will have a property of worth at least a few lakhs that can act as collateral for facilitating bank loans.
In Uttarakhand, Property card distribution event was organized at the Khirsu Block in Pauri district in the second week of October 2020. Khirsu is a mini paradise on earth as it boasts of one of the most beautiful and dense forests in the world
I remember having driven down from Pauri to Khirsu last year with my uncles and cousins. At a place called Dandapani which is just 13 kms from Pauri town, I couldn’t resist the temptation to stop and marvel at the sheer majesty of the dense forest that exits on either side of the highway. Pauri town itself is a sleepy but extremely beautiful town that is home to the ancient Kandoliya temple and Nagdev temples. The football field at Ransi in Pauri is another place where the nature is at its sublime best.
I personally believe that many places like the villages around Pauri and Khirsu can become great tourist destinations. They are as beautiful as Mussoorie minus its crowd and traffic. The village homes can offer homestay facilities to all kind of long stayers, Bag-packers and even for people who just want to break free from the maddening cities for a few weeks.
This is why I felt so positively moved when about 6800 people from nearly 50 villages received property cards in the virtual presence of Prime Minister and Union Panchayati Raj Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. A huge screen was fixed at Khirsu and the PM directly interacted with a few people who were the recipient of property cards. I also spoke, over phone and Google chat, to a few villagers and officials who were present at the event.
Sh. Devendra Singh ji, an 85 year old, former state government employee, was emotional as he said that it was for the first time that a leader as ‘big as the Pradhan Mantri’ had interacted with the ordinary men and women of Uttarakhand villages. This he says is a recognition of the importance of Uttarakhand where every village sends at least a few sons to the Indian Army.
A serving army personnel who was on his annual leave from his ‘paltan’ said that he was not surprised that PM Modi connects with the people of India so easily. He says that he had a firsthand experience of that when the PM visited his unit in one of the border areas where he is currently posted.
A Village Development officer told me that it wasn’t an easy task to implement the scheme. Day-to-day coordination was needed between state revenue officials, villagers through the village samitis, Survey of India and the District headquarters to carry out aerial surveys by drones. The property identification was done on the ground by the local village boys and girls who were selected by the village samitis. These boys and girls did physicals marking on the roof tops of the properties. If a property had two or more owners then that demarcation was also done physically by use of limestone powder (choona pathar powder). He said that the planning at micro level needed close monitoring and at the macro level it needed strategic vision and deep thinking. He was all praise for the untiring efforts of all the agencies of the Union government as well as the state machinery at the district, block and village level.
Raghav Bhandari a man in his fifties said that property cards will help in settling property disputes- existing as well as potential disputes. The cards will also act as incentives to those who have left their ancestral properties in dilapidated state. An official property card would mean that the property is worth at least something and this thought would motivate the owners who have left the village to appoint caretakers for their properties.
It would be an understatement to say that the Swamitv plan has been appreciated by the village folks of Uttarakhand. In fact, residents of over sixteen thousand villages are eagerly awaiting their village to be covered under this mega plan.
I am sure that all the stakeholders will work in tandem and ensure that the Swamitv Yojna will see its completion by 2024 and all the 6.5 lakh villages in India will benefit from this novel plan.
(The writer is professor of management at DME Noida and is also a well-known columnist and an author. The views expressed are personal)