With Dishaank app, land survey records at click of a button

In 2014, revenue authorities ordered the demolition of a portion of a high-end apartment complex in a rapidly developing residential zone in southeast Bengaluru. The apartment owners who bought flats in the complex a few years earlier had not been informed by the property developers that some parts of the Bellandur lake had been encroached to build the apartments.

The apartment owners association had to move the court to stop the demolition. Thanks to such encroachments of lakes, forests, and other state properties, the legal status of property deals is often in doubt.

The Survey Settlement and Land Records unit of the revenue department in the Karnataka government has now attempted to remedy this. It is making original land records available at a click on a smartphone screen through a mobile application called Dishaank.

The Dishaank app leverages Karnataka’s decision to digitize all land records (under the Bhoomi project) since 1990. The mobile application has been developed under the Karnataka Geographical Information System program of the Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Center (KSRSAC). The KSRSAC sources satellite data and provides it to agencies such as the SSLR department for innovative use.

“The objective of this app is to enable citizens to avail the information about the land and its ownership as recorded in the Bhoomi database. This is expected to bring in transparency and enable citizens to identify the actual owner, location of land etc. thereby reducing land-related disputes,” states a KSRSAC note on the Dishaank app.

“The app has had millions of downloads. People are using it now and it is a part of the regular work of every surveyor. It is a very well used application,” said Munish Moudgil, an IAS officer and commissioner of the SSLR department who conceived the tech solution for the land records problem.

“We have been able to build the app because we digitized, scanned and geo-referenced land maps. When we realized that this data was available, we made it accessible to everybody in the public domain so that they can see their information and benefit from it,” Moudgil said.

The Dishaank app is built on digitized versions of maps for 70 to 80 lakh old parcels of land from a land survey dating back to 1965. The app is currently in the process of being updated with data for nearly 2.5 crore subdivisions — around half the subdivisions in the state.

“The work is still going on and will take 1 – 1.5 years to digitize,” said Moudgil. “We are trying to allow people to access their subdivisions (podi) in the app in the next few months. That will be the next step, ‘Podi on Dishaank’. This work is in progress,” Moudgil said.

SSLR officials state that the Dishaank app is only meant to provide clarity on the original status of a piece of land– it should not be used for legal purposes in land disputes.

“You cannot draw a boundary between two people based on this,” Moudgil said. The Dishaank app is currently available for Android phones on the Google play store.

“It can be implemented in other states too if they scan and geo-reference their maps. It is easily replicable,” Moudgil said.

In the initial part of the project, the KSRSAC digitized 30,854 village maps for Karnataka. The agency later geo-referenced all the village maps and “created a seamless mosaic on the CartoSAT (2.5 m spatial resolution) satellite image and later spatially geo-referenced the same on 50 cm satellite data”. The geo-referenced village map data was linked to the Bhoomi land records by the SSLR so that citizens do not have to approach the revenue department for knowing the land details.

The land ownership data provided by the app includes the name of the landowner, the extent of land as per records, ownership type, land type, restriction/litigations on the land, category of land and any other active transactions being done on the land, according to the KSRSAC document.

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