Land and property Inclusivity | Insights from Charcha 2020
Land rights as a means to rural recovery
Lack of equitable access to land has been a critical driver of inter-state migration over the past few decades. Landless families constitute the biggest proportion of distress migrants. In rural India, where land is a means of livelihood, and deeply connected to dignity and social respect, landlessness is an indicator of both economic and social distress.
Land also plays a critical role in ensuring last mile welfare delivery, improved livelihoods and a vibrant rural economy. It is also a key lever in women’s empowerment and property rights. Group farming has emerged as a solution to improved livelihoods for women and increased agricultural productivity in a post-Covid scenario.
Land conflicts in North-East India have affected developmental outcomes, especially for women.Ground stories of complex systemic challenges faced by women, tribals, and the landless in accessing land give us critical insights on the way forward post-Covid.
Technology in securing land and property rights
Geospatial tools have the potential to accelerate people's ability to secure their property rights. Government agencies, nonprofits and multi-laterals have used these tools for better housing, accessing tribal forest rights, and MGNREGA planning. The immense potential of this technology to collect accurate and verifiable data, often using just a smartphone, has resulted in ‘ground truthing’ and building hyperlocal databases for planning and implementation. A powerful analytics engine on this data can improve decision making in land administration, ground water administration, housing and other programs for formulating strategies to solve socio-economic problems.
Remote sensing and satellite based data has been critical in conserving forest and water resources, and deploying them sustainably for economic activity. A spatial view of entire regions helps to gain insights for conservation and present comprehensive information for decision making at the village level and promote interdisciplinary collaboration. Temporal data is also key in establishing tenure and other evidence to secure rights of citizens.
Challenges and the way ahead
Fundamentals of land records need to be addressed with a great sense of urgency, with focus on closing informational gaps in urban land and rural homestead land. Land and residential property have historically played a key role as collaterals in easing the financial constraints of farmers and MSMEs – and will be critical again as we work towards economic recovery.
The interest of the small land holder needs to be protected through policy. The ability to monetise the value of their landholding is key. We need a functional, liquid market for land, which in turn requires secure tenure and property rights. Ease of land transactions needs to be improved, and Panchayats empowered through functionaries and advocacy to determine land parcels and their use, assess property values and levy taxes in a transparent and accountable manner.
Any strategy or policy for rural recovery should incorporate inclusive land rights as an anchoring component. We have a valuable opportunity to address a critical gap in our development journey in designing a post-Covid normal. This includes addressing landlessness and access to land for livelihoods, closing the gender gap in land ownership, securing rights of women farmers and their access to economic and technical support, and institutional structures like group farming that enable access to capital and markets to vulnerable communities.
- Landlessness has been a root cause of migration to cities
- Reverse migration will increase the stress on land-linked livelihoods
- Policy measures towards inclusive land rights, ease of land transactions, liquidity in markets are key for rural revival
- Opportunity to improve land rights for women, and livelihood of women farmers
- Spatial technology innovations have come of age and need to be leveraged to provide secure rights to land and forests, conserve local ecology
Download the full Insight report on Charcha 2020, covering 16 events and 150+ hours of discussion.