Land Reforms

Land Reforms

[pib] Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Desertification and Land Degradation

Mains level : Various initiatives for water conservation


The Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has provided useful information about land degradation in India citing the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas.

Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India

  • Space Applications Centre (SAC), ISRO has released out an inventory and monitoring of desertification of the entire country in 2016.
  • This Atlas presents state-wise desertification and land degradation status maps depicting land use, process of degradation and severity level.
  • This was prepared using IRS Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) data of 2011-13 and 2003-05 time frames in GIS environment.
  • Area under desertification / land degradation for the both time frames and changes are reported state-wise as well as for the entire country.

Degraded land in India

  • About 29.32% of the Total Geographical Area of the country is undergoing the process of desertification/land degradation.
  • Approximately 6.35% of land in Uttar Pradesh is undergoing desertification/degradation.

Various move for land conservation

  • National Afforestation & Eco Development Board (NAEB) Division of the MoEFCC is implementing the “National Afforestation Programme (NAP)” for ecological restoration of degraded forest areas.
  • Various other schemes like Green India Mission, fund accumulated under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), Nagar Van Yojana etc. also help in checking degradation and restoration of forest landscape.
  • MoEF&CC also promote tree outside forests realizing that the country has a huge potential for increasing its Trees Outside Forest (TOF) area primarily through expansion of agroforestry, optimum use of wastelands and vacant lands.

Various institutions for land conservation

  • Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (IISWC): Bio-engineering measures to check soil erosion due to run-off of rain water
  • Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Jodhpur: Sand dune stabilization and shelter belt technology to check wind erosion
  • Council through Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal: Reclamation technology, sub-surface drainage, bio-drainage, agroforestry interventions and salt tolerant crop varieties to improve the productivity of saline, sodic and waterlogged soils in the country
Land Reforms

Supreme Court upholds 2018 order on land acquisitionPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Issues in land acquisition and dispensing fair compensation

  • The Supreme Court reaffirmed its February 2018 ruling on Section 24 on land acquisition compensation awards given by a three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra in the Indore Development Authority.
  • It also has overruled an earlier co-ordinate Bench ruling in the Pune Municipal Corporation case of 2014 under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in the Act of 2013.

What is the provision and why it needed interpretation?

  • The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (2013 Act) replaced the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1894 Act).
  • The new Act provides for higher compensation to those deprived of land by the government for both public and private sector projects.
  • It also mandates consent of a majority of land-owners, and contains provisions for rehabilitation and resettlement.
  • Under Section 24(2) land acquisition made under the old law of 1894 lapses if the award of compensation had been made five years before the new Act came into force, but has not been paid.
  • In such cases, the process will have to be gone through afresh under the new Act, which mandates higher compensation.

Issue over compensation

  • There are cases in which farmers and other land-owners have refused the compensation, leading to delay in the government taking possession.
  • In this situation, the compensation amount is deposited in the government treasury. According to one interpretation, if this is done, the acquisition process is saved.
  • Then again, others contend that such cases will fall under the new Act because compensation has not been paid to the land-owners, and the lapsing clause in Section 24 should be applied.
  • If, through interpretation, a long-pending land acquisition process is closed under the old law and fresh acquisition proceedings started under the new one, the land-owners stand to benefit, but project proponents will have to pay higher compensation.
  • Therefore, the provision concerned is often a subject of litigation.

What happened in the case before the Supreme Court?

  • On January 24, 2014 the court ruled that the acquisition of a piece of land had “lapsed” because the compensation awarded had neither been paid to the landowners/persons interested nor deposited in the court.
  • The deposit of the compensation amount in the government treasury was held to be “of no avail” as it was not equivalent to the compensation being “paid”.
  • Based on this judgment, subsequent cases were decided on the same principle: acquisition that had taken place earlier than five years before the new Act commenced would lapse if compensation amount was not paid to the land-owners or, in cases in which the owners refused to accept compensation, deposited in court.

How was this precedent dealt with in another case in 2018?

  • The same question arose in Indore Development Authority vs. Shailendra. Another Bench did not accept the earlier Bench’s view.
  • On February 8, 2018, the majority, consisting of the first two judges, ruled that the acquisition would not lapse merely because the compensation amount was not deposited in court, but was instead deposited in the treasury.
  • It ruled that the past practice of more than a century, under which the amount was deposited in the treasury, was not taken into account by the earlier Bench.
  • Some provisions and orders that allowed this practice were not placed before that Bench. Further, the land acquisition in that particular case had been quashed by a High Court in 2008.
  • Since it was not a subsisting process, the question under Section 24(2), whether the acquisition lapsed because of non-payment of compensation or non-deposit in the court, did not arise at all.
  • On these grounds, Justice Mishra and Justice Goel overruled the earlier judgment and held that it was per incuriam, that is a verdict passed in disregard of law and, therefore, wrong.

What does the controversy mean for land-owners and project proponents?

  • A ruling that old acquisitions lapse for non-deposit of compensation will be more beneficial to land-owners and farmers as they stand to get higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement measures.
  • On the other hand, project proponents feel such an interpretation would mean that those who refused to take compensation, even after it had been fixed and the money deposited in the government treasury, would be taking advantage of their own wrong.

Present ruling

On Acquisition

  • The provision said that in such cases if the physical possession has not been taken “or” the compensation is not paid, the acquisition proceeding is “deemed to have lapsed”.
  • The court held that a land acquisition proceeding under Section 24(2) would only lapse if the authorities have neither taken physical possession nor paid the compensation due to the landowner for five or more years prior to January 1, 2014.
  • For this an “or” in the Section was “interpreted” as an “and”.
  • Further, the Bench held that Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013 does not give rise to a new cause of action to question the legality of concluded proceedings of land acquisition.

On compensation

  • The government if it so wishes would have to initiate “fresh acquisition proceedings” under the new Act of 2013 which provides for “fair-compensation”.
  • The judgment however said compensation would be considered paid if the amount is put in the Treasury.
  • There was no obligation that the amount should be deposited in the court in order to sustain the land acquisition proceedings under the 2013 Act.
  • Thus there is no lapse if possession has been taken and compensation has not been paid. Similarly, there is no lapse if compensation has been paid and possession not taken of the land.
Land Reforms

[pib] Wastelands Atlas of India – 2019PIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wastelands in India

Mains level : Land records management

  • Realizing the importance of the availability of a reliable database on the wastelands of the country, the Union Minister for Rural Development released the Wastelands Atlas – 2019.

Wastelands Atlas – 2019

  • The Department of Land Resources in collaboration with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Department of Space has published Wastelands Atlases of India – 2000, 2005, 2010 & 2011 editions.
  • The new wastelands mapping exercise, carried out by NRSC using the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite data is brought out as the fifth edition of Wastelands Atlas – 2019.
  • This 2019 Atlas provides district and state wise distribution of different categories of wastelands area including mapping of about 12.08 Mha hitherto unmapped area of J&K.

Need for such Atlas

  • Unprecedented pressure on the land beyond its carrying capacity is resulting into degradation of lands in the Country.
  • Therefore, robust geospatial information on wastelands assumes significance and effectively helpful in rolling back the wastelands for productive use through various land development programmes / schemes.
  • India with 2.4% of total land area of the World is supporting 18% of the World’s population.
  • The per capita availability of agriculture land in India is 0.12 ha whereas World per capita agriculture land is 0.29 ha.

Highlights of the Atlas

  • The changes in wastelands between 2008-09 and 2015-16 have been presented in the Atlas.
  • The effort has resulted in estimating the spatial extent of wastelands for entire country to the tune of 55.76 Mha (16.96 % of geographical area of the Country i.e. 328.72 Mha).
  • During this period 1.45 Mha of wastelands are converted into non wastelands categories.
  • There is a net conversion of 0.84 Mha (0.26%) of different wasteland categories in the country during 2008-09 to 2015-16.
  • A reduction in wasteland area was observed in the categories of land with dense scrub, waterlogged and marshy land, sandy areas, degraded pastures / grazing land and gullied and / or ravinous land.
Land Reforms

Explained: Draft Model Tenancy ActExplained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Model Tenancy Act

Mains level : Tenancy Laws in India

  • Recently the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) released the draft Model Tenancy Act, 2019, which aims to regulate rental housing by a market-oriented approach

Provisions of the Model Tenancy Act

  • The Model Act lays down the obligations of tenants and landlords, and provides for an adjudication mechanism for disputes.
  • It is intended to be an Act to balance the interests of owner and tenant by establishing adjudicating mechanism for speedy dispute redressal and to establish Rent Court and Rent Tribunal to hear appeals and for matters connected to rental housing.
  • Its stated aim is to promote the creation of a rental housing stock for various income segments including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, students, and working professionals, mainly through private participation.
  • The Act mandates that no person will let or take any rental premises without an agreement in writing, in both urban and rural areas.
  • Within two months of executing such an agreement, the land owner and tenant are required to intimate the Rent Authority, who will issue a unique identification number to both parties.
  • Agreements can be submitted through a dedicated digital platform.

Tenant and landlord rights

  • The Model Act lays down various rules, including that the security deposit to be paid by the tenant should not exceed two months’ rent for residential property, and should be a minimum of one month’s rent for non-residential property.
  • It lists the kinds of repairs each party would be responsible for, with the proviso that money for repairs can be deducted from the security deposit or rent, as applicable, if a party refuses to carry out their share of the work.
  • The Rent Court can allow repossession of the property by the landlord if the tenant misuses the premises, after being served a notice by the landowner.
  • Misuse of the premises, as defined, includes public nuisance, damage, or its use for “immoral or illegal purposes”.
  • If the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord can claim double the monthly rent for two months, and four times the monthly rent thereafter.

Why such Act?

  • A/c to the Census 2011 1.1 crore houses are lying vacant.
  • The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession.
  • The Model Act would bring these into the rental market, and would promote the growth of the rental housing segment.
  • One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.

Expected Outcomes

  • The Model Act, if adopted and enforced by the states, will lead to a better regulated private rental housing market for the middle and higher income segments.
  • In 2015, before the Housing for All by 2022 Mission (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban) was launched, it was decided that 20 per cent of the two crore houses that were to be created should be exclusively for rent.
  • The decision was based on a 2013 report by a Union government Task Force for Rental Housing, which held that affordable rental housing addresses the issues in an even more direct manner than affordable ownership housing.
  • However, when it was rolled out in late 2015, the mission promoted only ownership housing — with no mention of rental stock.
Land Reforms

[pib] Categorization of FarmersPIB


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Land holding categorization in India

Mains level: Improving the condition of Small and Marginal farmers


Operational Land Holding in India                  

  • In Agriculture Census 2015-16, the operational holdings are categorised in five size classes as follows:-


S. No. Category Size-Class
Marginal Below 1.00 hectare
Small 1.00-2.00 hectare
Semi- Medium 2.00-4.00 hectare
Medium 4.00-10.00 hectare
Large 10.00 hectare and above


  • The operational holdings are also classified in three social groups, viz., Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Others.
  • The average size holdings is highest in Nagaland (5.06 ha) followed by Punjab (3.62 ha).
  • Countrywide the average size is 1.08 ha.
  • It has been observed that Small farms are more efficient, especially in cultivating labour-intensive crops or tending livestock, but land holdings are too small to generate sufficient household income.

Refer this image for State-wise average size of operational holdings in the country:

Press Information Bureau

Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] Will contract farming law relieve agrarian distress?op-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Contract farming & regulations related to it

Mains level: Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018 and problems associated with it


New law for contract farming

  1. The Union government, with its ambitious and untenable plan of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, has embarked on reforms in the farming sector, one of which is the formulation of a law on contract farming
  2. The NITI Aayog recently circulated a draft model contract farming law titled Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018, which proposes a comprehensive legal regime to enable contract farming
  3. If devised and implemented in the right way, this law could indeed alleviate some of the stresses that India’s farmers face
  4. Studies have shown that contract farmers earn considerably more than non-contract farmers

Present status of contract farming

  1. At present, contract farming is regulated under the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (Development and Regulation) (APMC) Act of 2003
  2. This is the law that legalises contract farming
  3. It mandates that private companies (sponsors) must register themselves as well as the farming contract agreements with the market committees created under the Act
  4. Significantly, the Act provides that the sponsor cannot, at any time, lay claim to the land title of the farmer, thereby giving farmers some protection
  5. However, these provisions are woefully inadequate
  6. The Act does not provide for an effective monitoring mechanism, capacity building programmes or a robust dispute settlement system

Problems in the proposed law

  1. The draft says, “Contract farming is a pre-production seasonal arrangement between farmers and sponsors which transfers post-harvest market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors.”
  2. In theory, contract farming seeks to combine agriculture with corporate efficiency while ensuring the provision of inputs such as seeds and technology to the farmers
  3. Sponsoring entities typically rely on economies of scale to achieve profit maximisation and therefore often exclude small-scale farmers
  4. This would be untenable in the Indian context as this would exclude a majority of Indian farmers, who are small farmers, owning less than 2 hectares (ha) of land, and marginal farmers who, on an average, own 1.1 ha of land
  5. India also has no concrete law on land pooling that would be necessary to make this law a success
  6. Contract farming is also known to lead to an increase in monoculture farming and a loss of crop diversity, making crops more vulnerable to destructive pests and crop diseases as only a single crop is sown to achieve efficiencies of scale
  7. There is a great probability that the disparate bargaining power between farmers and sponsors could also lead to exploitative contracts for farmers
  8. Although the Model Contract Farming Act provides for the setting up of “Registering and Agreement Recording Committees” where the contracts are to be registered, it does not make provisions to ensure that these committees must be staffed with legally-trained persons who must vet the contracts to ensure that no dubious or unfair clauses have been included

Changes required in the law

  1. The new law must find a way to address the additional risks that contract farmers have to confront and find a way to ensure protection to farms through better fertilisers, pesticides and incentivisation
  2. Therefore, it is imperative that the government promotes risk sharing between the contracting parties and farmers and provide easy access to non-exploitative crop insurance schemes
  3. It is necessary that state governments do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, and rather promote crops that are uniquely suited to the state’s own unique soil, weather and technological conditions

Way forward

  1. The improved yields, greater technology transfer and market access that could potentially accrue from contract farming are advantages that will significantly benefit the Indian farmers
  2. Many studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization also show that contract farming can indeed benefit both parties by increasing efficiency, productivity and farmers’ income, while at the same time, giving private sponsors a greater say in farming methods, type and quality of produce
  3. While contract farming, if implemented wisely, does have the potential to alleviate the suffering of India’s farmers, it is imperative that the government takes a cautious, research-backed approach rather than imposing another hasty, ill-thought-out decision that will cause more harm than good
Land Reforms

Land acquisition law challenged in courtStates in News


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Land Acquisitions Act, 2013

Mains level: Fair compensation and transparency in Land Acquisitions


  • The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine a plea challenging the legality of amendments brought in by Tamil Nadu and four other States.
  • The present law allows authorities to bypass the need to take farmers’ consent before their land is acquired for large infrastructure projects.

Problem with the Amendments

  1. A SC Bench had issued notice to the Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand governments for amending their land acquisition laws.
  2. These states amended the laws to the extent that consent of farmers or land owners is not required before their land is acquired for projects like industrial corridors, expressways and highways.
  3. The petition filed states that the States allow land acquisition without participation of representative local bodies like gram sabha in social impact assessment studies.
  4. The States have removed the consent clause of PPP, paving the way for many private projects that are running under the garb of PPP.
  5. There are no provisions for expert appraisal processes, public hearings, objections, and safeguard provisions to ensure food security.
  6. The petition said the amendments violate the “core spirit” of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013.

About LARR Act, 2013

  1. It mandates that 70% of the affected land owners should consent to the acquisition of land for a public private participation project.
  2. The 2013 Act replaced its colonial predecessor of 1894 and was intended to uphold the farmers’ right to dignity and life.
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] A reinstated right to property will protect the poorop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Right to property, DPSP, Article 300-A

Mains level: Need for reinstating the right to property in India


Demands for Right to Property

  1. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 seeks to correct a historical wrong cemented during the colonial era
  2. The lack of land rights has ensured that generations of tribal cultivators have got a raw deal from governments as well as banks
  3. Now there is a demand for property rights from the farmers from Maharashtra as well as other states

History of the right to property

  1. It is well known that the Indian Constitution originally recognized the right to property as a fundamental right
  2. That right came under attack beginning with the first amendment in 1951
  3. Many of the subsequent laws that undermined property rights were hidden away from judicial scrutiny in the Ninth Schedule
  4. Another big blow came during the epic legal battles after the nationalization of banks in 1969
  5. The Morarji Desai government eventually scrapped the fundamental right to property with the forty-fourth amendment in 1978
  6. In its place came Article 300-A that makes it possible for a citizen to be dispossessed without compensation through an act of legislation

Reasoning for scrapping right to property

  1. Successive governments chipped away at the right to property by arguing that it was an obstacle in the way of pursuing the social justice agenda embedded in the directive principles of state policy
  2. Consider the issue of farmland
  3. It was very unequally divided when India became an independent country because of the colonial institution of zamindari
  4. The estates kept growing in size as indebted peasants were dispossessed after loan defaults
  5. The implicit assumption all the way till the right to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights was that it was essentially a concern of the rich
  6. The poor had little stake in property rights

Need for reinstatement

  1. First, the poor have neither the legal resources nor the political heft to fight laws or administrative orders that allow governments to take over their land
  2. Second, the poor do not have enough opportunities to make a living in formal jobs in case they are forcibly separated from their property

Advantages of giving property rights

  1. There is now a lot of research that shows how property rights help the poor
  2. The security of property provides incentives for a small farmer to invest in his land or a slum dweller to spend on basic infrastructure
  3. Secure property rights allow the poor to raise capital by offering the property as collateral to formal lenders
  4. The poor also have a stake in better property rights—from land titling to legal safeguards

Way forward

  1. Property rights today are a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion
  2. Its reinstatement discussion needs to enter the mainstream of Indian policy discourse
Land Reforms

The land challenge underlying India’s farm crisisPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stats mentioned in the newscard about land holdings

Mains level: Analysing the challenges for “Doubling Farmers Income”


Lack of Land

  1. From farm subsidies to farm loan waivers, the Indian government spends crores on farmer welfare, but these efforts will be inadequate unless they can tackle an increasingly daunting barrier: lack of land.
  2. The provisional figures from the latest agriculture census reveals how land—the most critical input for agriculture is getting more fragmented.

Declining Land Holdings in India

  1. Since the first agriculture census over 45 years ago, the number of farms in India has more than doubled from 71 million in 1970-71 to 145 million in 2015-16,
  2. However the average farm size more than halved from 2.28 hectares (ha) to 1.08ha.

  • Smaller, more numerous farms have been driven by rural population growth.
  • This relationship is a reflection of India’s inheritance pattern, which leads to farms divided between multiple heirs.
  • Between 1970-71 and 2010-11, the number of farms increased by 194%, almost exactly in line with rural population, which increased by 189%.

Regional Variations in Land Holding

  1. Within India though, there is significant variation in farm sizes. With an average size of 5ha, Nagaland is home to India’s largest farms.
  2. Punjab and Haryana, two states known for their agricultural output, also have larger farm sizes (3.6ha in Punjab and 2.2ha in Haryana).

  • The majority of India’s farms (86%) are less than 2ha. The bulk of which are located in the poorer states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Paradox of better Cultivation

  1. The Indian experience shows that small farmers are more productive than large farmers.
  2. Small farmers use more inputs (such as fertilizers), use their land more intensely (planting more crops) and adopt more technology.
  3. Yet, despite this efficiency, farm incomes remain poor.
  4. It is the poor returns to farming—despite intensive efforts put in by farmers—that lie at the root of India’s farm crisis, and the recent farm angst.

Income- Farm size Proportionality

  1. Given household sizes in rural India, small farms struggle to generate enough income for everyone in a household and often lack alternative sources of income.
  2. A 2016 study which uses the NSSO 2003 and 2013 surveys of farmers to show how farm size is an important determinant of income.
  3. It found that in 2013, for marginal farmers(less than a hectare of land), household consumption exceeded net monthly income of less than ₹ 5,500 from both farming and non-farming activities.

  • Using the 2015-16 census data, this would mean nearly 100 million farming households would struggle to make ends meet.
  • Examining farmer incomes between 2003 and 2013, they find that incomes grew the least for marginal farmers and growth of incomes was proportional to the size of a farm.

Land Consolidation: Is it a Feasible Solution?

  1. One obvious solution to small farm sizes will be consolidating land into larger farms by enabling land leasing.
  2. However, this can be a complex and costly process, made more difficult by the lack of accurate land records.
  3. As a report by PRS Legislative Research has highlighted, land records in India are poorly maintained and do not reflect ground realities.
  4. It pointed out that, despite most states computerizing and digitizing land records, as of 2017, spatial data had only been verified in 39% of villages.
  5. This is particularly problematic for small farmers who, without accurate land records, cannot access credit or secure insurance.
  6. Economists agree that improving land records, investing in research and development, providing local rural non-farm employment opportunities and building better rural infrastructure are policies that can help small farmers.

Way Forward

  1. India’s farmers are not alone in these struggles.
  2. A 2016 study estimated that around 84% of the world’s farms are less than 2ha.
  3. While many of these small farms face the same challenges, some small farmers, such as those in China, have been more successful in securing sustainable livelihoods.
  4. In all such light, doubling farmer’s incomes is a reality only for the largest land-owning group.
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] Modernizing land records in Indiaop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: DILRMP scheme and other measures needed for land records modernisation


Land Records Modernisation Programme

  1. A land title is a document that helps determine land ownership
  2. The Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP)—the erstwhile National Land Records Modernisation Programme—seeks to improve the quality of land records in the country, make them more accessible, and move towards government-guaranteed titles
  3. This will be achieved through complete computerization of the property registration process and digitization of all land records
  4. The scheme completed a decade in operation in August this year

Land ownership still not clear

  1. The scheme so far has looked at the digitization of land records only
  2. It has not addressed issues around land ownership
  3. It is well known that land records in India are unclear and do not guarantee ownership

Reasons for non-availability of ownership data

  • In India, we have a system of registered sale deeds and not land titles
  1. The Transfer of Property Act, 1882, provides that the right to an immovable property (or land) can be transferred or sold only by a registered document
  2. These documents are registered under the Registration Act, 1908. Therefore, the transaction gets registered, and not the land title
  3. This implies that even bona fide property transactions may not always guarantee ownership, as earlier transactions could be challenged
  • Land ownership is established through multiple documents maintained by different departments, making it cumbersome to access them
  1. For example, sale deeds are stored in the registration department, maps are stored in the survey department, and property tax receipts are with the revenue department
  2. These departments work in silos and do not update the data in a timely manner, which results in discrepancies
  3. One has to go back to several years of documentation to find any ownership claims on a piece of property, which causes delays
  • The cost of registering property is high and, hence, people avoid registering transactions
  1. While registering a sale deed, the buyer has to pay a stamp duty along with the registration fee
  2. In India, stamp duty rates across states vary between 4% and 10%, compared to 1% and 4% in other countries
  3. The registration fee is an additional 0.5% to 2%, on an average
  • Under the Registration Act, 1908, registration of property is not mandatory for transactions such as the acquisition of land by the government, property leased for less than one year, and heirship partitions
  1. Due to this several property divisions are not recorded and, hence, do not correctly reflect the ownership of the property
  2. This often leads to litigation related to rightful ownership

What do unclear land titles lead to?

  1. In rural areas, small and marginal farmers, who may not hold formal land titles, are unable to access institutionalized credit
  2. In urban areas, disputed land titles lead to lack of transparency in real estate transactions
  3. Any infrastructure created on land that is not encumbrance-free can be potentially challenged in the future, making such investments risky

Need of clear land titles 

  1. Under the Smart Cities and AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation ) missions, cities are trying to raise their own revenue through property taxes and land-based financing
  2. This necessitates the importance of providing a system of clear land titles

Proposed measures

  1. Conclusive titling has been proposed to address issues with unclear land titles
  2. In this system, the government provides guaranteed titles and compensation in case of any ownership disputes
  3. This will require several changes in existing laws that govern registration and transfer of land
  4. A system of registered property titles will have to be developed as the primary evidence of ownership
  5. All existing land records will have to be updated to ensure that they are free of any encumbrance
  6. Information on land records, which is currently spread across multiple departments, will have to be consolidated

Way Forward

  1. Unclear land titles impede development on several fronts
  2. The DILRMP aims to move towards conclusive titling but various other issues need to addressed in order to achieve that
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The problems with India’s land market distortionsop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Land distortions in India & ways to reduce them


Land misallocation and scarcity

  1. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but its growth potential has been compromised by resource misallocation, especially when it comes to land
  2. India is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world
  3. The demand for land has accelerated with the increase in the pace of industrialization and urbanization

Effect of land distortion

  1. Firms use three factors of production—labour, land and capital—to produce output
  2. Conventional wisdom has focused on the labour market as being the most distorted in India
  3. Distortions in land markets are much bigger than those in labour markets
  4. An increase in the misallocation of all factors is associated with a huge decrease in output per worker in the manufacturing sector
  5. Most of this decline originates from the misallocation of land and buildings
  6. Distorted land markets are a breeding ground for crony capitalism and political subsidies

Inteconnection between land and capital allocation

  1. Land misallocation does have repercussions on capital allocation through financial markets
  2. How? Most bank loans require some form of collateral to guarantee the loan
  3. The land is simply the best form of collateral due to its immobility (i.e. the debtor can’t run off with land)

Increasing land revenue

  1. In most municipal corporations in India, property tax contributes less than 20% of municipal revenue
  2. In most major cities, nearly 50% of the properties do not pay any tax
  3. There are bigger growth benefits that can be derived from shifting the policy focus from reducing land “regulatory tax” to increasing land revenue tax
  4. It is estimated that non-linear and progressive property and land taxes could almost quadruple revenue to 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) from currently 0.15–0.2%
  5. This will enable more efficient firms to grow faster and increase the budgetary revenue to maximize finance for development, and additional revenues needed for investments in infrastructure, urbanization, housing, and social programmes

Way Forward

  1. India is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The richest 1% in India own 53% of wealth compared to the richest 1% in the US who own 37.3% of the wealth
  2. Reducing land market distortions is a key step towards making growth more inclusive and achieving double-digit growth
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The need for digitizing land records in Indiaop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Land Records Modernization Programme, Digital India initiative, Bhoomi Project

Mains level: Need of land record digitization and associated benefits


Poor state of land records

  1. The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has often pointed out that a modern market economy requires a strong system of property rights
  2. India is a mess on this front
  3. Land titles are presumptive rather than conclusive

Impact of poor record keeping

  1. Nearly two-thirds of all pending cases in Indian courts are related to property disputes
  2. NITI Aayog has said that such property cases take an average of 20 years to settle
  3. The result is that millions of Indians cannot use their principal asset as collateral to borrow from the formal financial system
  4. The poor suffer the most

Steps taken by the government to resolve this problem

  1. The Union government has been busy trying to address this problem for almost a decade
  2. National Land Records Modernization Programme was started in August 2008
  3. It is now part of the Digital India initiative
  4. The broad aim is to modernize land records management, reduce the scope for property disputes, make land records more transparent and move towards conclusive property titles

Unique schemes by the states

Some of the most interesting work of sorting out the land titling mess has been done by state governments, as has been the case with labour law reforms as well

The Bhoomi Project in Karnataka led the way even before the Union government got into the act

  • The state government began to digitize land records at the turn of the century
  • The relevant document—the record of rights, tenancy and crops—has been made available through kiosks

The Rajasthan legislature passed the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act in April 2016

  • This law ensures that the state government is a guarantor for land titles in Rajasthan, and will provide compensation in case of issues of defective title
  • The guarantee is based on certification provided by the Urban Land Title Certification Authority, which will verify ownership of any property for a fee

Andhra Pradesh has taken a leap into the future

  •  Its state government has tied up with a Swedish firm to use new blockchain technology to prevent property fraud
  • As in all other trades, blockchain will allow participants in a distributed ledger to check the ownership of a land parcel

Way Forward

  1. Clear land titles will ease a lot of constraints—from making it easier for the poor to borrow from the formal financial sector to easing commercial land acquisition for infrastructure projects instead of the misuse of eminent domain
  2. Where property rights are ensured, so are the prosperity, freedom and ownership of wealth that brings real stability and peace
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The government’s role in contract farmingop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Contract farming, Indian Contract Act, 1872, E-NAM (National Agricultural Market)

Mains level: Draft model contract farming Act, 2018


Contract farming

  1. Contract farming refers to an agreement between farmers and marketing firms for the production and supply of agricultural products under forward agreements, frequently at predetermined prices
  2. The contract between farmers and buyers insulates farmers from price risk, helps them develop new skills, and opens new markets

Market failures

Contract farming suffers from market failures

  1. Monopsony
  • Contract firms enter into an agreement with farmers to grow differentiated crops
  • This turns the firm into a sole buyer and farmers into price-takers
  • Contracting firms can exploit this situation to their advantage by offering lower prices to farmers

2. Information asymmetry

  • Contracting firms do not have complete information on productivity and land quality
  • This can lead to a situation where farmers produce below-quality crops
  • Farmers sometimes do not understand contract specifications like the quantity and quality to be produced or the effect of price change
  • Buyers may penalize farmers
  • Similarly, farmers may indulge in side-selling or leak the technology provided by the contracting firm

Regulation of contract farming

  1. In India, contract farming is regulated under the Indian Contract Act, 1872
  2. The Act has many general provisions that are relevant to contract farming, including the formation of contracts, obligations of parties, and consequences in case of breach of contract
  3. The model APMC (agricultural produce market committee) Act, 2003 provides specific provisions for contract farming, like compulsory registration of contract farming sponsors and dispute settlement

Government intervention

  1. The department of agriculture and farmers welfare has now come out with a draft model contract farming Act, 2018
  2. It intends to establish a win-win framework for both farmers and sponsors

How provisions of the proposed bill would do more harm than good

  1. The model contract farming Act proposes a state-level agency, the Contract Farming (Development and Facilitation) Authority, which would put contract farming outside the ambit of the APMC
  2. The bureaucratic hurdles instituted in the form of a new regulator to oversee contract enforcement will be counterproductive
  3. The model Act requires the sponsor and the farmers to register the contracts with a registering and agreement recording committee
  4. Registration imposes additional procedures and costs on the parties, and small and medium farmers cannot easily afford these costs
  5. The Act also proposes price protection for farmers by determining a pre-agreed price
  6. How would the sponsors incentivize the farmers to perform if the state provides farmers a perverse incentive to not perform?

What steps can the government take?

  1. Foster more competition
  • The government needs to create market-based incentives for both farmers and buyers
  • It should improve farmers’ connectivity to spot markets and mandis across the country
  • E-NAM (National Agricultural Market) is a great initiative in that direction

2. Provide public goods

  • The government should maintain an information repository of farmers and contracting firms
  • This will help farmers and sponsors to evaluate each other prior to engaging in contracts
  • Also, the government can facilitate the establishment and enforcement of standards for crops

3. Encourage softer means for enforcement

  • Incorporating risk-sharing mechanisms in contracts, incentive schemes, repeated contracting and renegotiation options, and simplified and transparent contract terms would help in contract enforcement

Way forward

  1. The model Act makes a good move in the direction of promoting contract farming
  2. The government should focus on providing an enabling environment by fostering competition and bridging information asymmetries between farmers and buyers
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The problem of land hoardingop-ed snap


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Government Land Information System (GLIS), floor space index (FSI)

Mains level: Problems associated with land use and how to effectively use land in urban as well as rural areas


Government having very less information about its landholding

  1. The Centre, by its own admission, does not know exactly how much property it owns
  2. The information provided by the Government Land Information System (GLIS) is both incomplete and patchy
  3. Various Central Ministries admit to owning only about 13,50,500 hectares of land, official sources suggest that the correct figure is several times more than what is disclosed

The problem of unused land

  1. A large proportion of government land lies unused
  2. A large part of the unused land is high-value property in prime areas in major cities
  3. Land hoarding by government agencies has created artificial scarcity and is one of the main drivers of skyrocketing urban real estate prices

What does this lead to?

  1. Middle- and lower-income households find adequate housing unaffordable
  2. High land prices also reduce competitiveness by increasing the cost of industrial and development projects
  3. The allocation of unused land is rife with corruption
  4. Scams involving the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the Srinagar airfield project, and the Kandla Port Trust are a few of the many examples

Basic tenets of urban planning defied

  1. Land is a crucial and often constraining input for production, not only in agriculture but also in secondary and tertiary sectors
  2. A useful measure of this is the floor space index (FSI), which is the total floor area built per square metre of land
  3. For example, if a single-storey building occupies 50% of a plot, the FSI would be 1/2. If the building is expanded vertically to have four stories, the FSI will go up to two (4 times 1/2), as the effective floor area has quadrupled

Why should FSI be increased?

  1. The demand for land increases with both population density and economic growth
  2. Therefore, to maintain efficiency, the FSI should also increase. By this token, the FSI should be the highest in major city centres
  3. Apart from supplying space for economic activities, such an arrangement would also help maximise the gains from transport infrastructure

What is needed?

  1. The need of the hour is a comprehensive inventory of land resources and usage patterns for all government branches
  2. It should include information on the location of each property, its dimensions, the legal title, current and planned use, and any applicable land use restrictions
  3. This will enable effective identification of suboptimal land use, as well as of the land that is surplus

Utilization of surplus land

  1. Surplus land should be utilised to meet the ever-growing demands for services, such as water and waste disposal, as well as government-sponsored housing and transportation projects

Way forward

  1. The problem of inefficient land use by government departments and public sector units is complicated and endemic
  2. Solving the problem of wastage could generate employment and pull masses out of poverty, thereby aiding the economy to grow fast
Land Reforms

Lok Sabha passes bill to build public projects in protected monuments


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017, Archaeological Survey of India

Mains level: Protection of heritage along with development

Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017

  1. The Bill would allow the government to take up infrastructure projects within prohibited areas around protected monuments
  2. It was passed in the Lok Sabha

Why this bill?

  1. The bar on new construction within prohibited areas of a protected monument was adversely affecting various public works and developmental projects of the central government
  2. The need was felt to amend the law to allow construction works related to infrastructure financed and carried out by any department or office of the central government for public purposes which are necessary for the safety or security of the public at large

Previous provision

  1. The 1958 Act prohibits carrying out any public work or project or other constructions in any prohibited area around protected monuments
  2. A ‘prohibited area’ means land in the 100-meter radius around a protected monument
  3. Currently, construction is not allowed in the prohibited areas except for repair and renovation works

No private work allowed under new provisions

  1. The new law will give relaxation only for government works to be carried out in national interest and no private work will be allowed
  2. Such construction works would be taken up when there is no possibility of any other viable alternative to such construction beyond the limits of the prohibited area
  3. The Bill also seeks to have a new definition of “public works” under the Act

Status of archaeological sites

  1. There are more than 3,600 monuments and sites that are centrally-protected under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for their maintenance
Land Reforms

Lok Sabha passes Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill

Mains level: Land acquisition and issues related to it

The 12th amendment to act

  1. A bill to amend the regulations governing compensation payable for acquisition of immovable property by the Centre for defence and security purposes was passed by the Lok Sabha
  2. This is the 12th amendment and the amendment has been brought for limited and specific purpose
  3. The Bill will be deemed to have come into force on March 14, 1952, the date of the enactment of the Act

Important provisions

  1. The bill seeks to amend a section of the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act to “enable the central government to re-issue the notice of acquisition to the owner or such other person interested in the property, for the purpose of giving an opportunity of being heard”
  2. The compensation was meant for an interim period and solely for the purpose of determining the date of compensation to be computed


Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952

  1. The Act provides for the central government to requisition immovable property (or land) for any public purpose
  2. Such public purpose must be a purpose of the central government (such as defence, central government offices, and residences)
  3. Once the purpose for which the property was requisitioned is over, it must be returned back to the owner in as good a condition as when the possession was taken
Land Reforms

JPC on land Bill to seek eighth extension

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: What is JPC?

Mains level: It is a famous and important bill. Crucial for development projects. Also criticized for some of its debatable clauses(given below).


The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the bill

  1. The JPC on the Land Acquisition Bill, 2015, will seek the eighth extension in the upcoming Parliament session
  2. Background: The Bill that seeks to alter the 2013 Act brought in by the UPA regime was put on hold in 2015

Positive sign Consensus

  1. According to a committee member, out of 29 clauses, we have achieved unanimity on at least 27. More consultations are required for the remaining clauses

Background of the JPC and the Bill

  1. The JPC was set up in May 2015 to examine the Bill after it was opposed by many political parties, including allies of the ruling BJP
  2. The Bill seeks to remove the consent clause for acquiring land for five purposes — industrial corridors, public-private projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence


Joint parliamentary committee

  1. It is one type of ad hoc Parliamentary committee, constituted by the Indian parliament
  2. Formation: Joint Parliamentary Committee is formed when motion is adopted by one house and it is supported or agreed by the other house.
  3. Another way to form a Joint Parliamentary committee is that two presiding chiefs of both houses can write to each other, communicate with each other and form the joint parliamentary committee
  4. Membership: The Lok Sabha members are double compared to Rajya Sabha for e.g. If Joint Parliamentary committee has 10 Lok Sabha Members then 5 members will be from Rajya Sabha and total member of JPC will be 15
  5. The strength of a JPC may be different each time.
Land Reforms

Land-related conflicts in India threaten investments of Rs12 trillion, says report

  1. Issue: Land-related conflicts in India affect about 3.2 million people and impact investments worth over Rs 12 trillion ($179 billion)
  2. Source: Report by Rights and Resources Initiative, a global coalition of non-profit organizations, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  3. Examples: Stalling of projects like Vedanta’s Group’s bauxite mining project in Odisha’s Niyamgiri Hills and Posco’s $12 billion Odisha steel project
  4. Solution: Implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA)
  5. Another study found that 14% projects announced between Jan 2000 and Oct 2016 were stalled due to land acquisition conflicts
Land Reforms

Are Indian farmers at risk as states bypass acquisition laws?

  1. States across India are bypassing land acquisition laws by introducing land pooling schemes to speed up industrial and development projects
  2. A move that activists say leaves farmers and the environment vulnerable
  3. Land pooling enables the quick consolidation of small land holdings
  4. Land owners get back a share of developed land, while the state keeps the remainder for its use
  5. It does not require consensus to buy the land, a social impact assessment, rehabilitation for those displaced and compensation of up to 4 times the market value
  6. But with no public consultations, owners may come under pressure from the community or the state to participate
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The problem with government as landlord | Part 2op-ed snap

  1. Steps being taken: The government’s strategic sales push is putting in place mechanisms that will bring clarity to the asset-stripping issue.
  2. Lessons from the Ministry of Defence: The Ministry’s success in digitizing, indexing and computerizing land records, and the exception made to the rule of non-use of defence land for other purposes, has facilitated the easier transfer of defence land in recent years.
  3. Lessons from the railways ministry: The railways have an exclusive Rail Land Development Authority for developing unused railway land.
  4. Other options: Leasing-But unless the complications associated with leasing laws in states are resolved, it cannot be actively pursued as a strategy.
  5. A Land bank: Similar to the Chinese model, the government recently floated the idea of a SPV or a land bank to consolidate the landholdings of idle PSUs and use them for other public purposes.
  6. The government’s policy think tank NITI Aayog is currently examining the viability of this route
  7. The way ahead: The government should push for land records modernization programme taking lessons from Karnataka’s record in digitization and Rajasthan’s efforts towards registration of land titles.
  8. It is crucial that the states and ministries are on board if the land records modernization programme, the monetizing of PSU land and optimal utilization of available land are to be a reality.
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The problem with government as landlord | Part 1op-ed snap

  1. Theme: The opportunity costs of vast tracts of unproductive state-owned land.
  2. Background: Issues with disposing of the land owned by PSUs in wake of the government’s move to identify and sell PSUs that are losing propositions.
  3. According to some estimates, around one million acres of surplus land in around 300 central PSUs is lying vacant across the country.
  4. The opportunity cost: Unlocking this surplus land could solve many problems in land-starved cities e.g. allowing for civic infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and roads.
  5. Recommendations of Vijay Kelkar panel: The panel identified monetizing surplus government land from port trusts, railways and PSUs as the ideal solution to India’s urban problems—besides the benefits of unlocking huge revenue and betterment of the fiscal consolidation situation.
  6. The K. Roongta committee constituted by the Planning Commission also proposed this.
  7. Issues with disposing of surplus government land: Lack of adequate land records and the absence of a single comprehensive land database is a major roadblock. Also, in most states, the tasks of integrating land records and registration are handled by separate departments, often leading to incongruity in data sets.
  8. Opposition from trade unions, illegal encroachment and lack of coordination between various ministries are major issues.
  9. PSUs themselves are often in the dark as to the extent and nature of their holdings.
  10. Steps involved in the monetization of PSU land—such as identification of surplus land and approval from the relevant ministries—are lengthy and cumbersome.
  11. The sale process itself is challenging e.g. in the VSNL case, government sold 25% equity to the Tata group in 2002—but it took until August 2016 for the legislative changes that will allow the demerger and productive use of the surplus VSNL land.
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] India’s land laws and FDIop-ed snap

  1. Theme: Removing bottlenecks to foreign investment in India.
  2. Reform agendas in question: Amendments to the land acquisition law and improvements in the ease of doing business
  3. Land acquisition: An ordinance to modernize India’s land laws was promulgated thrice after the incumbent government came to power in 2014; but a law could not be passed due to Opposition resistance. A model land-leasing law formulated by the Niti Aayog was mooted for States to adopt instead.
  4. Issues with the model land leasing law: A billion-dollar plant is unlikely to come up on leased foundations.
  5. As a result, a proposed nuclear plant has moved out from Gujarat owing to land acquisition problems, India’s largest FDI proposal from South Korea’s Posco is all but off, and job creation has hit a five-year low.
  6. World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index: India moved up 12 places in the index last year and may rise further.
  7. Issues: The index is only based on speed of paperwork in Mumbai and Delhi, where there is little space for big new industries; such rankings don’t directly translate into more FDI.
  8. Getting a construction permit online is no good if large tracts of land cannot be provided job-creating investment.
Land Reforms

Rajasthan first to pass ‘titling’ law

  1. News: Rajasthan passed a landmark legislation providing statutory backing to land records, effectively guaranteeing land and property ownership
  2. Purpose: It will create an efficient and transparent modern land market, provide certainty of tenure and end litigation that often hinders development projects
  3. Once an individual is accorded legitimate rights to land, which at present can be disputed, their ability to trade these rights improves dramatically
  4. Impact: It will lead to transparency and will create a sense of confidence among land owners
Land Reforms

Land Bill panel granted 6th extension

  1. Context: The Joint Committee of Parliament examining the contentious land Bill was granted a 6th extension of its term for over four months
  2. Reason: Several states are yet to furnish details to it on a clause relating to compensation
  3. The law had become applicable for national highway projects from January 2015
  4. There has been a large number of disputes by affected owners, who were seeking higher compensation
Land Reforms

NITI Aayog plans model lease law

NITI Aayog has taken up with the States a proposal for unlocking the value of farmland through leasing.

  1. NITI Aayog will prepare a a model land leasing law for the States to use for reforming land lease provisions.
  2. The interested landowners could deposit their land parcels in a land bank for cultivators to lease land.
  3. The land bank will act as a intermediary and transfers rent from the actual cultivator to owner while charging a small fee to cover its costs.
  4. This is expected to permit the consolidation of operational landholdings, given the fragmentation of farmland holdings in the country.
Land Reforms

Land ordinance gets a burial

  1. The land acquisition ordinance would be allowed to lapse, without any re-promulgation.
  2. But, the govt. will include 13 points to reform the land acquisition law to benefit farmers.
  3. These 13 points will be brought under the rules, so that farmers do not face financial loss.
  4. Earlier, govt. failed to create consensus in Parliament to get its amendments to the contentious land acquisition Act cleared.
Land Reforms

Land ordinance to go; States to frame law

  1. Govt. has indicated that Land Ordinance will be allowed to lapse on August 31.
  2. Although, govt. will wait for the report of the joint committee in Parliament on the ordinance before winter session.
  3. But, PM has almost decided to allow States to put in place their own laws on land acquisition.
  4. At NITI Aayog’s meeting, which was violated by Congress minister’s, some states were interested to add these features to their land acquisition laws.
Land Reforms

Govt. ready to make a U-turn on land bill

  1. The 6 amendments to the LARR Act, 2013 may be taken back by the Govt.
  2. The controversial amendments include – consent clause, SIA requirements, replacing ‘public company’ with ‘public entity’, restoring clause on action against defaulting officers, dropping special category projects proposed to be free of SIA and consent clause.
  3. The move might end the logjam in the Parliament.
Land Reforms

SC seeks Centre’s reply on re-promulgation of land ordinance

  1. Acting on a petition filed with it, the SC asked the Center reason for re-promulgation of Land Acquisition Ordinance.
  2. In the famous Cooper case, the SC had said that re-promulgating ordinances without getting them passed in the Parliament/Legislature is against the ethos of the Constitution.
Land Reforms

Is re-promulgation of land ordinance valid, SC asks CentreSC Judgements

  1. The Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutionality of the President’s re-promulgation of the Land Acquisition Ordinance.
  2. This is the first time this court is holding a hearing on an ordinance promulgated by the President under Article 123 of the Constitution.
  3. The government has to reply on a plea to hand over the trail of documents detailing the decision leading to the re-promulgation.
  4. An ordinance has a life of 6 months if promulgated when Parliament is not in session. Once the Houses are in session, the Land ordinance expires in 6 weeks.

Land Reforms In India: An Unfinished Business

The Traditional Land Reforms

The Britishers in India were not at all keen in adopting progressive land reforms measures for the rural farmers. So, after independence, we adopted several measures to usher in long stalled land reforms.

1. Abolition of Intermediaries

Intermediaries like Zamindars, Talukdars, Jagirs and Inams had dominated the agricultural sector in India by the time the country attained independence. Soon after independence, measures for the abolition of the Zamindari system were adopted in different states.

Reason: This kind of system was exploitative for tenants and Zamindars never invested in agriculture because their rights were not permanent, which ultimately led to low production.

Outcome: Tenants came in direct contact with government, though he continued to pay rent which was very nominal. This was the most successful land reform in the country, but it benefited only one class of tenants, who were owners of land prior to British land revenue system

1. Tenancy Reforms

This reform sought to provide security of tenure to tenants, so that land owners cannot evict them arbitrarily along with regulation of rent. This reform sought to prevent exploitation and giving security of tenure so that they could invest in land. This reform required tenants to legally register with the govt. in order to get protection.

Outcome: This reform was not very successful, except in states of West Bengal and Kerala, because of lack of political will at the state level. Moreover, since landowners were politically active, they didn’t allow the tenants to register with govt. 

3. Ceiling on Land holdings and Redistribution of Surplus land

The third important step of land reforms relates to the imposition of ceiling on land holdings. Ceiling on land holdings implies the fixing of the maximum amount of land that an individual or family can possess.

This reform sought to bring parity in terms of distribution of land through two aspects: one, the fixation of ceiling limit and two, the acquisition of surplus land and its distribution among the small farmers and landless workers. This reform was accompanied by Bhoodan movement, (launched by Acharya Vinoba Bhave)

Outcome: Actually, the limit on ceiling was kept very high and the redistributed land was mostly infertile land

4. Consolidation of Land Holdings

Consolidation of Holdings means bringing together the various small plots of land of a farmer scattered all over the village as one compact block, either through purchase or exchange of land with others.

Reason: The average size of land holdings in India is very small. The size of the holdings is decreasing but number of holdings is increasing over time. This is due to the inheritance laws. If farms are small and scattered, we cannot go for mechanization, etc.

Oucome: Not very successful, because the owners did not had conclusive rights so there was fear among farmers that they may lose land ownership. Moreover, there is mix of fertile and non-fertile land, so it was difficult to get same quality of land.

5. Cooperative Farming

It has been advocated to solve the problems of sub-division and fragmentation of holdings. In this system, farmers pool their small holdings for the purpose of cultivation and reap benefits of large scale farming.

Reason: Economies of scale can reduce input cost

Outcome: This was the least successful land reform in the country due to inconclusive ownership rights.

Current Scenario

Now, the land ceiling cannot be implemented because landholdings are small, but, land consolidation and tenancy reforms are more relevant now.

Market-led Land Reforms

These reforms come into picture after the 1991 economic reforms, which gave private sector larger role to play. Post-1991 reforms, land became important for industrial and infrastructure as well, along with agriculture.

1. Modernization of Land Records

This reform seeks to solve the issue of inconclusive land ownership rights. This includes survey of land holdings in the country and digitization of land records and revenue records, so there is less subjectivity in terms of ownership rights. It is significant reform because it will facilitate land consolidation.

National Land Records Modernization Program –  It was launched in 2008, to modernize management of land records, minimize scope of land/property disputes, enhance transparency in the land records maintenance system, and facilitate moving eventually towards guaranteed conclusive titles to immovable properties in the count.

This will facilitate easy purchase and selling of land.

2. Facilitating Land Leasing

There should be compulsory registration for all the land owners and lease holds. Registration of landowners will ensure security of land ownership. They can lease their land to landless/tenants and settle in urban areas. The idea is that, since there is massive rural-urban migration and those who are well-settled in urban areas can lease their land to their village counterparts.

At present, NITI Aayog is preparing a model agricultural land leasing law, to formalise leasing of agricultural land.

3. Land Acquisition for Public Purpose

In 2013, govt. enacted “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013″, to provide just and fair compensation to farmers while ensuring that no land could be acquired forcibly.

There was a big debate on this issue over the last year, when NDA govt. brought an amendment bill, which sought to remove all necessary checks (such as consent clause, social impact assessment, minimum consent requirement, etc) in land acquisition for 5 sectors namely – defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure where central govt. owns land.

Suggested Readings

1. Indian Express: Farmer needs a new deal
2. Indian Express: Land Titling

Published with inputs from Pushpendra

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