By Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi
Land Revenue Code, as adopted by every state, has made land ownership a hardship and nightmare. Apart from legal issues and government prerogative to acquire land, encroachments and land mafia who place slums on your land to demand ransom are in offing. Landlords are like fathers of an unmarried daughter who always worried about encroachments and trespassing on his land. After demonetization, Land deals have almost given up the cash portion. Now the Center Government passed a law restricting cash transactions above Rs3 Lakh will certainly make land ownership and investments more difficult.
There are almost 500 Act which governs land and its transactions in India. Owning and investing in land is such a difficult task that you not only end up defaulting in compliance but also your land can be encroached upon forcefully and you run pillar to post for justice. Land Revenue department or Forest Department or any government owned corporation like NHAI can vacate you because owning land and property is not a fundamental Right in India as originally stated under Article 31. It is now the only constitution Right under Article 300A.
The 1975 estimates of potentially available vacant land under the ULC Act indicated 8000 hectares in Greater Bombay, rising to as much as 20,000 hectares if marshy land in the NO Development Zone was included. The National Urbanization Commission has concluded in its interim report in 1986 that, because of the manner in which it has been drafted and implemented, the ULCAR Act has not achieved any of the objectives for which it was enacted. According to an article in the Times of India dated 27th April 1984, a mere 27 landowners, or 3% of the total, on fully 70% of all exploitable vacant land in Greater Bombay, and about 20 builder monopolies over two-thirds of all that actually taken over under the ULC Act and used for housing and other public purposes is negligible. All 45457 statements were scrutinized from all over the state, and the vacant land after scrutiny was 34213 hectares, However, the land acquired and vested with the state government is only 4494 hectares, of which again 877 hectares have been actually taken in possession.
Under Ceiling of Land Holding Act and under Urban Land Ceiling Act, huge track of land were acquired by state governments in India. These land either were never given willingly or never compensated adequately. Because of this we now have Land compensation Act in place to acquire land by government. But, still, owning land has become cumbersome.
The Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act of 1966, employs the Term Development Plan and indicates a variety of things, but is a mere land-use plan. It also contains the Development Control Rules (DC Rules). Which regulate the Character of buildings and density of population allowed in a specified area. Every twenty years, zonal classifications and Town Planning will change or reserve land according to Town Planning Acts in a state. Keeping an eye on the government’s planning and zoning jurisdiction is not everyone’s cup of tea.
On a different plane, artificial assumptions about the future population size and the direction of growth have led to exclusion of vast lands for development, and to a jailer to plan adequately for the provisions of infrastructure for the realistic levels of population in different parts of the city.
There is much meaning in the claim that the city’s housing problem is not so much due to physical shortage of land, as unhelpful building regulations and an unresponsive urban government, that constrained the supply of available land in the market and precluded the construction of affordable housing. The Kerkar Committee, appointed by the state government in 1981, pointed out that the state government owns about 8088 acres of open land (about 5886 acres in the western tip of Borivali, 156 acres in the western suburb of Andheri, and 2046 acres in the eastern Kurla), of which 6400 acres are marshy land, and 1272 acres are hilly, and most of the land has been placed in the no-development zone owing to the difficulty of development. About 3000 acres of land belonging to the government and public bodies are reported to be under encroachment, and about 5000 acres of land are in the ownership of private individuals, but can technically be acquired. About 7000 acres of land are lying vacant, mainly in the suburbs, having been placed in the industrial zone, and some of this can be developed for housing the industrial workers. The initial estimate of vacant land under the Urban Ceiling Act was around 20,000 acres, though it must be a lesser area now after all the exemptions and scrutiny of returns.
Evaluating the Indian land reforms, a recent comment from G.S. Balla is apt. He observes: “The Indian Government was committed to land reforms and consequently laws were passed by all the State Governments during the Fifties with the avowed aim of abolishing landlordism, distributing land through imposition of ceilings, protection of tenants and consolidation of land-holdings. One of the significant achievements of these acts was the abolition of absentee landlordism in several parts of India. However, land reforms were half-hearted with regard to the imposition of ceilings and security of tenure. Consequently, the skewness in land distribution was not reduced in any significant manner. Further, a very large number of tenants were actually evicted in the name of self-cultivation. In spite of it, land reforms brought about a significant change in land relations in so far as self-cultivation, rather than absentee landlordism, became a predominant mode of production.
The Government of India is aware that agricultural development in India could be achieved only with the reform of India’s rural institutional structure. It was said that the extent of the utilisation of agricultural resources would be determined by the institutional framework under which the various inputs were put to use. M. Dandekar observed: “Among the actions intended to release the force which may initiate or accelerate the process of economic growth, agrarian reform usually receives high priority”. The First Five-Year Plan stated:”This (land reform) is a fundamental issue of national importance. The former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, emphasized: “Land Reforms is the most crucial test which our political system must pass in order to survive.” Land reforms therefore became one of the vital aspects of the agricultural development policy especially after the concept of the Five-Year Plan came to stay.
In an environment where land is a commodity and government policies to distribute land evenly needs a second thought to invest in land owning it without developing it. If you are a builder and developer then land is your raw material but if you are an investor or inherited land , you need to be extra cautious to own and maintain it in the long run.