If you ever had doubts about how tech finds its place in the public sector, you should look at what Coal India is doing.
Coal India is the sixth largest mining company in the world, based on revenue, according to PwC. It accounts for about 81 percent of the country’s total coal production. Lately, after passing the Land Acquisition Bill, the Indian government has received much criticism for favouring corporations. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to make the entire process transparent. And finally, Digital India has been propagated to such an extent that it has reached almost every sector.
If you join all the dots, you would know where this article is heading. Coal India has decided to completely automate the process of land acquisition and has proposed a Web GIS-based Land Information System (LIS) and Land Acquisition Monitoring System (LAMS).
Being the first public sector company to do so, Coal India aims to “identify the gap areas in the process through generation of related information,” according to a report by the company. This will enable the project authorities to act upon such gaps at the right time, the report says.
Easing Land Acquisition Process is the Aim
Expediting the process of land acquisition was one of the main reasons to automate the system, said N. P. Singh, general manager of Geomatics, Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL), a consultancy and a subsidiary of Coal India.
“The general perception among the people is that land acquisition is a difficult proposition. However, if you devise a technology that is transparent in the public domain, then there is no issue,” Singh says.
The system will facilitate the evaluation of government, private and forest land; the filing of land acquisition proposals; and identification and timely resolutions of land-related issues, among others.
Coal India used the automation process for a select few projects. But now it is planning to encompass all the projects in the new system.
To exemplify the issue at hand, Singh said that in the case of Western Coalfields Limited, one of the fully owned subsidiaries of Coal India, “Land owners are coming forward and requesting the companies to take their land. After the bill was passed in the parliament, people want to be proactive and want to give their land, provided the system is transparent.”
A Cloud-based Approach
According to Singh, CMPDIL has been using technology for the last 25 years. He says it is the only public sector company in the country that is well versed with geospatial technology, which is used right from the pre-mining stage.
The proposed LIS system is expected to be hosted on a cloud-based server. It will also include a cadastral-based geodatabase.
“The entire land information will be on the cloud and the database will be updated online. The CEO of the company will check the progress of the process. It is a very big initiative for Coal India,” says Singh.
To encompass such a huge project is no easy task for any company, especially when the company itself meets around 40 percent of the country’s primary energy requirement. “Since the project is huge, it is not possible for CMPDIL to completely work on this project, and hence we are outsourcing the project to vendors. We will have control over the system and will contribute about 50 percent, while the other 50 percent of the routine operations will be outsourced,” says Singh.
A Decision Support Tool
According to CMPDIL, the system will “act as a decision support tool for efficient and effective land acquisition, and support query and reporting of land parameter and land acquisition progress for different types of land involved in the project area.”
The proposed system, which is expected to be completed in a year, aims at security—both at the application level as well as the database level. The system is also expected to present up-to-date status of the land acquisition process through charts, reports, and maps.
However, more than anything, the system should ensure public satisfaction, especially that of farmers and land owners. It should also warrant transparency, especially at a time when it seems that the Land Acquisition Bill only benefits the corporations. Well, if technology proves the detractors of the bill wrong, then Coal India has definitely taken the right path.
Noah D’Mello is a trainee journalist. You can follow him @DMelloNoah.