Land Records

Land Records state documents relating to land tenure and ownership. The making of a mouza map, which is usually on the scale of 16 inches to a mile, is known as kistwar. Initially, the process of record building begins, plot by plot, with the map showing the actual position. This process is called khanapuri, which also includes a plot wise description of ownership, area, classification, share of ownership, and the status thereof shown in a list called khasra.

The whole operation of kistwar and khanapuri used to be carried up under the provisions of the bengal tenancy act of 1885). Chapter X of the act deals with the preparation of records-of-rights (ROR). But the actual survey leading to the drawing of mouza maps was taken up under the provisions of the Bengal Survey Act V of 1875, which still prevails as the guiding law. In the case of preparation of record-of-rights, provisions of the Bengal Tenancy Act have given way to the latest provisions of the east bengal state acquisition and tenancy act 1950. It is to be noted that modern cadastral survey work is always preceded by a traverse survey undertaken by a traverse party of the Directorate of Land Records and Surveys. In course of the traverse survey, the traverse prepares his field book, which contains all his angular and linear measurements and sends it to headquarters for computation and supply of plot sheets or skeleton maps. If the fieldwork is found correct, the traverse stations are plotted on a squared paper, which is called a P 70 sheet. The plotted sheets are then sent back to field officers. The next stage of work is the preparation of detailed 16 inches to 1 mile-mouza maps. This is the start of the cadastral survey. As stated before, the first phase is the kistwar work, which is carried out by surveyors or amins under the supervision of kanungos, who work directly under the Assistant Settlement Officers (ASO) and senior ASOs called charge officers, who all stand empowered under the Bengal Survey Act 1875.

The next stage is khanapuri, which literally means filling up of different columns of the khatiyan form. This is in fact the first stage of preparation of the draft record-of-rights. During this stage, a khatiyan is opened for each group of proprietors of tenure-holders (if any) as well as for each tenancy. The khatiyan will show the person or persons who are in possession of the right or interest they possess, together with their respective shares as well as status and/or special incidents, if any, attached to such tenancy. In the relevant rent column is the amount of rent the tenant pays to his superior interest holder as well as the subordinate tenancy or interest. Simultaneously with khanapuri, the statistical data in respect of each holding or interest (ROR) as noted in the khasra book, a public easement form (showing right of public easement in any road or pathway and other statistical forms) evolved for the purpose.

When the khanapuri work of the whole mouza is completed, the kistwar map is sent to headquarters (drawing section of the settlement office) for extraction of the area of each plot of land. The khatiyans prepared during the khanapuri stage are copied at the cadastral circle office of the ASO. These copied khatiyans, which are called parchas, are distributed among the tenants and the superior interest holders (rent receiving interests). The draft mouza map already prepared and firmed up in blue cobalt ink is then sent back to the settlement kanungo of the relevant area. The next stage of work is buyharat (bhujarat), which is a Persian word meaning explanation. The idea is to explain to the tenants and superior interest holders concerned the particulars recorded in the field in respect of each plot and holding (khatiyan) concerned. The kanungo or sardar amin (senior surveyor) doing buyharat moves from field to field checking the map and records and correcting errors, where necessary, in presence of tenants and superior interest holders. He also makes at this stage a preliminary entry of the rent payable in respect of each holding, but does not make any entry regarding status or special incidents of tenancies, if any. Disputes arising during khanapuri as well as during buyharat are decided during this stage.

The next stage is the tasdik or attestation of draft records. This is done by duty-empowered revenue officers usually called attestation officers. Attestation commences mouza wise on notified dates. All the entries in the draft khatiyans are read out to the concerned parties. Bona fide corrections, where necessary, are done under the initials and seal of the attestation officer. Disputes and prayers for plot re-measurement or as is commonly called fadar, coming up at the attestation stage are heard, enquired into and disposed of in the presence of concerned persons. At this stage, applications for amalgamation or subdivision of holdings are also entertained and disposed of on merits of each case.

On completion of attestation of draft records of each mouza, a general scrutiny is made for rectification of clerical mistakes or bona fide errors before the mouza records are placed in draft publication for a period of not less than 30 days. During this period, anybody not satisfied with any entry in the draft records or any omission therefrom may file objections in prescribed forms. These objections are disposed of by the assistant settlement officers (ASOs) duly empowered in such cases. Any correction or alteration in the draft records occasioned by the decisions of ASOs are incorporated in the records. There was no provision for filing appeals against orders passed by ASOs in objection cases under the Bengal Tenancy Act 1885. But such provisions for filing appeal have later been incorporated in the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950. These appeals are heard and disposed of by the settlement officer himself or his senior deputies, also known as charge officers, authorised in such cases.

It needs to be mentioned here that along with the record preparation described above, another process called the rationalisation of rents can be taken up, if the government so notifies, simultaneously, under a special provision of the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950. If and when such rationalisation of rent is done, newly rationalised deals are incorporated in the records in place of the existing rent.

When all the processes detailed above are completed, the records are subjected to a final scrutiny. Usually known as final janch (scrutiny), the records of right thus emerging are placed for final publication and are open to inspection by the general public. These records consist of a series of numbered khatiyans (prepared in a prescribed form) and are used from the khanapuri stage. The series of khatiyans thus prepared and finally published are known as record of right, which are subsequently printed as a rule in different volumes and sent to the collectorate for preservation in the record room. Loose copies of printed records are distributed to tenants and landlords (superior rent-receiving interests).

The 16 inches-to-1 mile village maps, which are a part of the records of rights, are also printed and sent to collectorate for distribution. While in the Directorate of Land Records and Surveys, village maps are reduced in size to 4 inches = 1 mile and 2 inches = 1 mile scales with the help of photographic machine and congregated into 1 inch = 1 mile thana jurisdiction maps. In addition to the 1 inch = 4 mile district maps, these three sets of maps mainly serve administrative purpose.

The printing of record of rights (khatiyans) in the Settlement Press was a very time-absorbing process, which led to huge backlogs and created serious problem. To solve this problem, a study was commissioned by the government in February 1988 to see if introduction of computer-aided printing system would be an answer. There are also some pilot projects currently under way to find a correct option.

The records of rights so elaborately prepared have only a presumptive value under the existing law. These records of rights will be presumed to be correct, unless refuted in any civil court.

Land surveys and preparation of land records were taken up, district by district, right at the beginning of the twentieth century. The districtwise operations were taken up mainly for revenue administration. These operations, known as survey and settlement operations, have been completed for the whole undivided province of Bengal, with the exception of chittagong hill tracts (were inhabited mostly by tribal people) in the northeastern tract of erstwhile Bengal. The rights and obligations of the tribal people were guided by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1900. The first survey and settlement operation taken up under the provisions of the bengal tenancy act 1885 was in the district of Chittagong, which was completed in 1885-98 under the supervision of the settlement officer CGH Allen.

Almost simultaneously, another minor operation was conducted in areas covered by the Chakla-Rawshanabad estate belonging to the Maharajas of Tripura, a semi-independent estate in British Tripura, and noakhali district. The administrative headquarters of the Maharajas was Agartala, while that of British Tripura was comilla. The Chakla-Rashanabad estate operation was completed in 1892-99, under JG Cumming, the settlement officer. The southern district of Bakerganj was the next district taken up as a whole in the year 1901, under its settlement officer, M D Beatson Bell. In this manner, the entire province of Bengal (including the areas now called Bangladesh) was completed in settlement operations in its first cycle in the years 1934-40. [T Hussain]