Land info at the fingertips
Land has always been close to the hearts of our people. Such is the intrinsic value of this limited asset in these fertile densely populated deltas that even our folklore is replete with tales of heroism, tragedy, berayal and victory centering land ownership.
Today, however, most people find themselves in deep waters over land issues especially relating to laws and procedures. While illiteracy is often cited as the main reason behind ignorance, it is rather evident that in many cases it is just that the people do not have access to the necessary information and hence even educated people turn out to be ignorant about land procedures. Confused and desperate, people are often forced to visit the local land office frequently and in the process are taken for a ride by unsavoury characters leveraging the travails of the bureaucratic system.
Having advanced in leaps and bounds as far as technology use is concered, Bangladesh government was quick to launch an app called VumiSeba (meaning ‘land service’ in English) in 2015 to provide land related information, even to expat Bangladeshis. Beneficiaries are able to know about Citizen’s Charter (Service Delivery Charter), what to do about mutation and various cases, how to go about vested property information, what to do before and after land purchase, how to identify fake documents and what to do in such a case.
The app also explains what land owners must know, Land Development Tax and rent certificate. The android app has a wealth of information regarding land laws and inheritance and includes the Muslim and Hindu succession act and registration act. The app also provides important commercial information like Jolmohal-Hatbazar-Khas land lease. It explains the system of land measurement as well, since Bangladesh uses a mix of the traditional and Imperial system.
There is substantial information about the ministry along with contacts for relevant offices under the minstry including the sub-district offices. Users can give their opinion or complain about their experience at the land office. These reactions are passed on to the authorities concerned. The app is updated every two months to keep the information and contact details up to date along with updating the most recent government regulations if any.
Sadequr Rahman was working as an Assistant Commissioner (Land) in Manda Upazila of Naogaon District when he noticed how people suffered due to lack of information. “Information is vital. It is for that reason that the government provides information through the national web portal. I thought an app like the ‘VumiSeba’ would go a long way,” said the civil servant who is regarded as an innovator today.
For this self-funded innovative project, Sadequr Rahman was inspired by the a2i programme under the PMO. Sadequr Rahman received substantial support and suggestions initially when he was the only innovator from Rajshahi Division to be invited to the Innovation Summit. He was also invited several other times to present his idea where his contribution was recognised.
Sadequr Rahman thinks there are still certain obstacles hindering innovation. He mentions lack of confidence and lack of comprehensive motivation off the top of his head and then goes on to list a whole range of systemic problems like inadequate electricity, sluggish internet and poor finance. Yet, as government has already emphasized on innovation and a2i is providing motivation and training, innovative culture will hopefully flourish. This has given rise to a new approach where civil servants try to solve the problems themselves on their own initiative.
Serving people has become more important than ‘ruling’ them. It will facilitate rapid development of Bangladesh, he believes. Innovators need to be motivated by their superiors with rewards, advanced training, publicity and promotion.
People have started using the app from Google Play Store. Its rating is good and the comments are also positive. Sadequr Rahman is further extending his support through suggestions to people who seek his opinion at times. Sadequr is still working on his app updating it with new features.
He said about his own project that it was a self-funded project and money had not been an issue at any time. “The satisfaction from serving people cannot be measured with money. Not only the people of my area but people of all over Bangladesh have benefited. Even people living abroad are calling and sending e-mails. They are acknowledging and appreciating my efforts. That is the greatest reward.”
VumiSeba can be found at https://goo.gl/ahdqEk.
* Sadequr Rahman is a civil servant in the Government of Bangladesh
Isfaqul Kabir Sarker is working as a freelance writer in a2i program