Bhoomi: 'E-Governance', Or, An Anti-Politics Machine Necessary to Globalize Bangalore?

December 06, 2016 by Solomon Benjamin, R. Bhuvaneswari, P. Rajan, Manjunatha

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Does the digitization of land titles need to be framed within larger issues of Governance and move beyond narrow techno-administrative narratives? In doing so, what are the ranges of political economies that such interventions encounter and how do these relate to various forms of contests. What are readings of land titles digitization and its re-production in a variety of contexts of the ‘South’ and especially under conditions of globalization to contest with assumptions promoted by writers like Hernando De-Soto? This paper looks at the ‘Bhoomi program’ and its consequence of digitizing land records in districts surrounding Bangalore. The Bhoomi program on the digitization of twenty million land records is considered a ‘best practice’ model of ‘e-governance’ to be replicated in other parts of India and elsewhere in poor countries. The main findings, at two levels, contrast conventional wisdom. First the digitization of land records led to increased corruption, much more bribes and substantially increased time taken for land transactions. At another level, it facilitated very large players in the land markets to capture vast quantities of land at a time when Bangalore experiences a boom in the land market. These consequences have come about via the centralization of both land records and management away from the village panchayat to the district level. The study comes out of detailed ethnographic research methods to detail out the process.