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How an IIT team is helping put 1,000 villages on the map of India

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Villages in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are being added to the map after 88 years of ‘existence’, because the last time India was mapped was by the British. 

Roorkee: For over 80 years, Abujhmad didn’t officially exist — it was not represented on the Indian map. Now, the village in Chhattisgarh, at the heart of Maoist country, has finally made it to the Indian cartographic sphere.

Abujhmad and close to 1,000 other villages in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, many of them affected by Naxalism, are being mapped by faculty at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, as part of the National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP).

Launched in August 2008, the NLRMP aims to create an official record for these unmapped places so that their inhabitants can have access to basic facilities and rights.

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Professor Kamal Jain, senior faculty at the IIT’s Civil Engineering department, who heads the mapping team, told ThePrint that the official maps that India uses were prepared by the British government in 1930. The only addition has been the inclusion of the new states.

Peeyush Pathak, the cartographer on the team, said, the map had left out a number of places.

“The map that we are using now was consolidated in 1930 by the British. And even after that, the Survey of India could not map many areas like the villages that have been listed recently,” said Pathak.

The government, the team said, launched the project about 10 years ago to identify and add a number of villages and small towns that were not mapped back then and had continued to be left out.

The aim of the project, Jain said, was to modernise management of land records and minimise the scope of property disputes. It also aims to enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system, and facilitate moving eventually towards guaranteed conclusive titles to immovable properties in the country.

Relying on technology

The project, being implemented across the country, is relying on technology for the mapping process.

“We have been able to use technology that maps the area according to the latitude and longitude. After taking those projections we are able to draw the map,” Prof Jain told ThePrint.

“This technology, called cadastral mapping, functions without internet connection as well and hence we were able to penetrate into areas such as Abujhmad, which were not connected by road or any other route. We made use of the satellite technology to reach these areas and map them,” he said.

Jain further said that most of the areas covered by his team were affected by Naxalism but once the mapping was done, the state government handed over official land rights to the inhabitants.

“Villages were mapped in sensitive areas such as Sukma, Bastar Narayanpur, Dhamtari and others. One of the main reasons for doing this mapping is security as these are all sensitive areas,” the professor added.

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V.C. Jha, a member of the Indian National Cartographic Association, told ThePrint, “Till about 30 years ago, mapping was done mostly manually. But now the technology has evolved a lot. This project will ensure an accurate picture of the areas and will allow the government to carry out infrastructure projects such as roads”.

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