Tuesday, February 16, 2016

25 February 2016: Unlocking the land assets: Empowering citizens, updating land records, reducing corruption

Barun Mitra
Liberty Institute

Vijay S Madan, Secretary, Land Resources

Land has emerged at the top of the political agenda. The political pendulum has swung from gross abuse of eminent domain to severe restrictions on scale and scope of land acquisition. However, the poor quality of land records and various land laws, including ceiling, zoning and taxations, have grossly distorted the land market. This has resulted in an artificial scarcity of land on the one hand. On the other hand, it has greatly limited the ability of land owners, particularly farmers, to capitalize their assets appropriately and diversify away from agriculture.
Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian economist, had identified a similar problem in his path breaking book, “The Mystery of Capital” (2001), and estimated hundreds of billions of dollars locked up in assets that cannot be legally capitalised.
In India today, high transaction costs, and regulatory restrictions, have created a mismatch between supply and demand for land. This has created a nexus between the rich and powerful securing access to land, and fuelling enormous corruption. At the same time this led to displacement and dispossession, reflecting in land alienation and growing protests, which has now built up a social and political coalition against such arbitrary intervention.
Now there is a window of opportunity to leverage the social unrest, political realization, and administrative desire to drastically reform the land laws, regulations and records. While the administration is digitizing the land records, many citizens and communities are engaged in documenting the ground situation using GPS and satellite images. A complementary relationship between the two efforts would rapidly help in updating the land records. The social and political convergence, aided by greater access to technology, including blockchain, could lead to rationalizing the laws and regulations governing land, steps towards a viable land market, with lower transaction cost, eliminate both land alienation and scarcity, thus greatly reduce corruption.
Such a transparent and participative approach would empower the citizens and create a sense of community, with secure property ownership. It will also stimulate credibility and mutual trust between the people and the administration. In the process unimaginable value of assets will be unlocked and become available for more productive use. Poverty, after all, is primarily a reflection of people’s inability to capitalize whatever little assets they may possess.

Date: Febraury 25, 2016
Time: 05:00 P.M.

Conference Hall, Ground Floor, R&T Building
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy,
18/2 Satsang Vihar Marg, Special Institutional Area,
New Delhi-110067(INDIA)


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