India’s blockchain gain

hopes the blockchain
technology system will
bring transparency
to land deals
ALL CHANGE: India hopes the blockchain technology system will bring transparency to land deals


AS INDIA starts to use blockchain technology for land deals, it must protect the rights of the most vulner­able with policies for the responsible use of big data, analysts said.

At least two Indian states are testing blockchain – a ledger system tracking digital information – to record land deals and bring transparency to a sys­tem that is rife with fraud, and leaves the poor at risk of eviction.

Putting India’s land records on block­chain – the technology behind the bit­coin currency – would greatly increase efficiency, reduce corruption and boost economic growth, experts say. But fears about the misuse of data persist.

“One of the biggest challenges with respect to big data is the fear of discrimi­nation and profiling based on religion, caste or income level,” said Nikhil Naren­dran, a partner at the law firm Trilegal.

“The government should engage in responsible and ethical big data pro­cessing, and have adequate mecha­nisms to retain ownership and confi­dentiality,” he said in Blockchain for Property, a handbook for its adoption, released on Tuesday (28).

Land records in most Indian states date back to the colonial era, and most land holdings have uncertain owner­ship. Fraud is rampant and disputes over titles often end up in court.

A national land record modernisation programme, launched in 2008 to survey lands, update records and establish own­ership, has been delayed by torn maps and disputes dating back decades.

Blockchain works by creating perma­nent, public “ledgers” of all transactions, potentially replacing a mass of overlap­ping records with one simple database. It enables real-time updates of records, improving efficiency and transparen­cy, and reducing bribes, analysts say.

But there cannot be a complete switch to a blockchain platform, as millions are still not literate and lack access to smartphones and computers, said Ananth Padmanabhan, a fellow at thinktank Carnegie India.

“There needs to be a dual system, an option to use the online services but also the old process of paper documents sub­mission at the government office,” he said.

It is also important the data is not used to profile people or discriminate against them, for instance denying home loans to people from certain back­grounds, Narendran said. “If used in a responsible and ethical manner, big data can bring about real change, including in the area of land transactions,” he said.

“We need a model that is rights based and accountability based, so there are fewer chances of the misuse of data.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)