THE government introduced the electronic management of the mutation of land, or e-mutation, in 485 upazila and 3,617 union land offices of 61 districts, barring the three hill districts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, on July 1, 2019. Mutation, which is the insertion of names of new owners in the record of rights, in place of former owners, after the transfer of the ownership of land, is indispensable to establish the proprietary rights, which include transfer and registration, and the payment of taxes. The electronic management of land mutation has, therefore, been viewed as a step forward towards stopping corruption and bribery that have almost been the norm in affairs of land affairs for ages. But a recent study, conducted by a researcher of the US-based Yale University which was made public in a programme at the land ministry on Monday, shows that 40 per cent of the upazilas have under-performed in providing e-mutation services, which have so far covered more than 10 million people in two months since its introduction. While the study does not note the underlying causes for the under-performance and while there is time and scope for further development, what is worrying is why such a huge number of uapzilas have under-performed.
The system is said to have entailed, no doubt, some positive changes such as an expeditious disposal of applications for mutation, compared with the manual system, and easing public sufferings by way of less required land office visits. The land minister, who attended the programme, however, seeks to put the under-performance of the 40 per cent of upazila offices down to that all officials may not equally perform and the pace of their adaptation to new technologies may vary from person to person. But any technology should get going after all the people involved will have been trained to a certain level of efficiency. This is what the government is left to look into as the under-performance could very well stem from unwillingness of a sort of the employees involved as any digitisation of such services could, and should, cut down on chances for corruption and bribery. Besides, the government should go for a reinforcement mechanism by way of punitive steps for the people failing to perform up to expectations. The minister also seeks to resolve soon some additional problems such as power outages and poor internet connection that the services now face. While the electronic management of land mutation has brought about some positive changes, it is expected that the government should bring the whole of land management services, including land records, under a digital framework to afford service-seekers some relief and, most importantly, to curb corruption that revolves round land management.
In a situation like this, the government must get to the reasons for under-performance of the offices concerned and adequately attend to them. And it must also go for electronic management of all land-related issues to stop corruption and bribery.
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