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LAND TENURE IN INDIA Implications for Natural Resource Management D Rajasekhar Professor and Head, Decentralisation and Development Unit, ISEC, Bangalore.

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Presentation on theme: "LAND TENURE IN INDIA Implications for Natural Resource Management D Rajasekhar Professor and Head, Decentralisation and Development Unit, ISEC, Bangalore."— Presentation transcript:

1 LAND TENURE IN INDIA Implications for Natural Resource Management D Rajasekhar Professor and Head, Decentralisation and Development Unit, ISEC, Bangalore Presentation at Natural Resource Management and Institutions: The Links between Property Rights, Collective Action and Natural Resource Management, Februray 7-11, 2005, ICRISAT, Patancheru, India

2 2 INTRODUCTION Land tenure implies rights in relation to land. Two types of rights - ownership and cultivation. Include different types of claims that people have to land and specify what one can and cannot do, and what benefits one is entitled to. Determine long-term incentives to invest in, sustain and improve resources. This, in turn, determines the collective or individual action around management of land. Land tenure is shaped by the government policies in relation to land reforms and their impact.

3 3 Land reforms in India Advocated to bring in equitable agrarian structure and improve land productivity, thereby to increase food production. Three components Abolition of intermediaries b/w government and cultivator Tenancy reforms –Principle of land to the tiller & create the class of owner-proprietors –If not possible, tenancy was to be controlled and rendered fair –Eradication of share-cropping, fair rents and secured tenure. Fixation of ceiling on the size of landholdings and redistribution of surplus land.

4 4 Tenancy reforms The tenancy area declined from 23% in the early 1950s to 8% in the 1990s. Some landless tenants obtained ownership rights; but, inter-regional variations exist Greater impact on absentee landlords with little influence in village power structure. Resulted in evictions, resumption of land for personal cultivation, concealed tenancy, reverse tenancy, reduced lease period (where it was formal). Between 15-25% tenancies in the country are illegal; 80% of leased land is held by small and marginal farmers.

5 5 Tenancy reforms (contd) Landlords taking pro-active role (such as cost sharing, specification of crops, etc.) due to the fear of tenant occupancy. The share of landlord in input costs increased due to technological changes. Tenant cultivators production efficiency may have gone up as falling wage employment opportunities contributed to enhanced interest. Gujarat experience shows that banning tenancy will not lead to desired results. National Commission on Agriculture stated that given declining land-man ratio tenancy cannot be banned.

6 6 Ceiling laws Skewed distribution of land ownership in 1950s; 8% of large farmers owned 53% of land and 28% of marginal farmers owned 6% of area. Inverse size-productivity relationship suggested economic gains to small peasants. First phase ( ) of ceiling laws were not radical. A delayed and diluted legislation failed to have desired impact. In fact, provided scope for adjustments and for emergence of `benami holdings’ or paper partitionings. Micro studies revealed land transfers in favour of the wealthy (due to tenancy reforms) and a rise in the concentration of land ownership.

7 7 Ceiling laws (contd) More radical reforms in 1972; yet, the performance was poor. –Land declared surplus was less than the estimated surplus land –Only 1.8 million ha (out of 3 million ha) of land was acquired. –50% of land to be distributed was involved in litigation –Land distributed was only 1.5% of NSA. Ceiling laws resulted in a change in land acquisitive ethos of rich peasants. Rich peasants started to gradually withdraw from the land market and started to seek greener pastures in non- agricultural activities. Noticeable decline in the concentration of land ownership

8 8 Consolidation of landholdings Attempt was made to consolidate holdings to reduce inefficiency in operation and cultivation. But, received least attention; no legislation, only persuasion. Between 1974 and 2004, %age of area consolidated to planned area ranged between 22% and 40%. Ceiling laws resulted in a rapid rise in the %age of marginal holdings as the objective of these laws was equity rather than farm efficiency. Higher rates of partitioning resulted in fragmented landholdings as the ownership of holdings with different quality is perceived to be risk preventing mechanism. Yet, a rapid growth of marginal holdings (from 28% in 1950s to 61% in 1990s) was a concern to the policy makers as the current holding structure neither meets efficiency nor equity.

9 9 Land surveys The last survey of land was undertaken during the colonial period (1920). The changes in the ownership (legal or illegal) that have taken place since then are enormous, and call for fresh survey. Yet, no survey is undertaken due to the complex and sheer size of the task. Implies that land records are in a bad shape, and any dispute would call for official intervention. GIS technology however makes this feasible.

10 10 Computerisation of land records Recording (periodic updating) of land rights is recongnised as an essential pre-requisite. Computerisation of land records is undertaken in a phased manner, and the task is complete in 177 districts. Contributed to reduction in time for farmers in obtaining the required legal document. Delays in funds transfer and development of appropriate software and inadequate training resulted in slow progress. Involved entering the land records as they are without making any attempt to make them accurate. In the absence of any land survey in recent years, the records tended to be inaccurate in several cases.

11 11 The landed farmer in India typically is... A tenant –Not having a formal contract –Cannot bargain with the landlord –Does not have incentive to participate in a programme such as watershed and share her immense knowledge on practices of soil conservation –who has to combine wage labour with occassional migration –And so on. A marginal farmer –Owning tiny and unviable landholding –Not sure of exact size of the landholding –Cultivating infertile land distributed by the government –Small and scattered landholding coming in the way of participation in land development programmes

12 12 The landed farmer in India typically is... An encroacher –not sure of whether s/he will cultivate the land tomorrow –not having incentives to invest and sustain landed resources –But, paying sums to people who matter to keep cultivation rights What is needed to facilitate collective action among small and marginal farmers? A case study

13 13 Fight to evict an encroacher of tank land - Bheemanatta This village is located in Kolar district in Karnataka and has 64 households Heterogeneous village with 44% households belonging to SC/ST, 45% to OBC and 11% to upper castes. SC and OBC households were organized by local NGO, and the main intervention was micro-finance Micro-finance only marginally stabilised household incomes (through reduced dependence on informal agencies and borrowing for short-term production) Micro-finance, however, did not result in significant poverty reduction.

14 14 Bheemanatta (contd) The poor expressed the need to rehabilitate the tank on which many of them depended for their livelihood. The command area of the tank included lands of many households But, the tank was dysfunctional, and hence, needed rejuvenation. The NGO, with donor funds, started community based rehabilitation scheme since An important problem was encroachment of tank land by an upper caste and wealthy person, occupying political position in gram panchayat Invested heavily on borewell and coconut plantation; hence, reluctant to vacate the land despite the pressure of people’s organisations.

15 15 Case study (contd) People’s organisations met the encroacher for negotiated settlement. The encroacher refused; challenged them to go to officials. People’s organisations met officials Obtaining original land documents was difficult. Getting the surveyor to the site was difficult both because of shortage of staff and political influence of the encroacher. After continuous follow-up, surveyor demarcated the land Getting the encroacher evicted required the use of police force. The encroacher managed to implicate key representatives of people’s organisations in false cases

16 16 A few lessons Small and marginal farmers require solid backing of civil society organisations The people could get the encroacher evicted due to their long association with each other in micro-finance groups and trust and confidence on each other. The poor state of land records make it difficult for the people to believe that they can ever achieve success and leads to considerable hardship. Collective action was costly to these farmers as this involved in many visits to officials, indifferent to their problem Their interest to act collectively to rehabilitate the public good was sustained because of clarity on future benefits stream and wage employment that was possible.


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