Govt to digitise legacy records since 1865

Govt to digitise legacy records since 1865

Image source: Anupam Gupta

Karnataka’s ambitious project to digitise legacy property records dating all the way back to 1865 will start from Bengaluru’s Gandhinagar sub-registrar office.

This is a Rs 25-crore project called Surabhi that was announced in the 2018-19 budget by then chief minister Siddaramaiah. The Department of Stamps and Registration will anchor the project.

“The earliest records go back to 1865. The legacy records run into crores of documents. Digitisation will be done in phases, with the pilot starting from the Gandhinagar sub-registrar’s office,” Inspector-General of Registration and Commissioner of Stamps K V Thrilok Chandra told DH. “By the end of this month, a request for proposal will be floated and the tender process will be under way,” he said, adding that the actual digitisation of records could start early next year.

Last year, the Karnataka State Archives department began digitising legacy documents from at least 39 other government departments, Mysore Gazetteers (1866-1947), historical maps, correspondence of and between British and Indian rulers and manuscripts.

It is believed that the earliest property records in Bengaluru date back to the time when the city had been turned into a municipality — Bangalore City and the Cantonment. In fact, erstwhile municipal regulations (Acts XIV of 1856 and XVIII of 1864) kicked in from 1865.

While the first municipal board for Bengaluru was set up in 1862, records show that municipal institutions were set up in the remaining six district headquarters — Hassan, Kadur, Tumkuru, Chitradurga, Kolar and Shivamogga — in 1864. The then administration cluster Attara Kacheri (present-day Karnataka High Court) came into existence in 1868.
“Digitisation on the heritage front is always good. It should be done with care and once digitised, the records should be made open-source for the public,” Poornima Dasharathi, writer and founder of Unhurried Heritage Walks, said. However, there are two major challenges, according to Chandra: Digitising frail documents without damaging them and making them machine-readable. Apparently, West Bengal lost some documents during digitisation as they were not handled properly.

Since many period documents comprise more than one language, making them machine-readable (optical character recognition) would be difficult. “We’ve consulted many firms on this. Even the running strokes in English are a challenge. We haven’t found technology that can address this,” Chandra said. “So for now, the digitisation will happen with overhead scanners.”