Back to Basics: Govt Eyes Land Reforms For Urban Expansion
The policy on use of agricultural land in India is governed by age-old laws that hinder the country's urban expansion. The more recent 2013 Land Act has made it even tougher for land owners, tenants, and private entities to utilise agricultural land better.
However, the government has constituted a committee through its think-tank NITI Aayog to suggest land reforms and agricultural land development, keeping in mind the country's growing demand for urban space. The panel will be headed by former Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) chairman and agriculture expert, T Haque.
The panel will have representatives from seven states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.
The panel will suggest ways for utilising of agricultural land in a better way to ensure alternative forms of occupation as well as rural transformation. The idea is to also engage more agricultural land for industrial purposes and ease the process of land acquisition in India. This move, many believe, will help farmers, tenants or lessees of land and also free up land for private and public development.
Primarily an agrarian country, India has over 60 per cent of its land titled as agricultural. These land parcels are protected by both central and state governments and cannot be sold to private developers, planning non-agricultural activities. Non-Resident Indians (NRI) are not allowed to buy agricultural land in India.
The committee will also undertake the review of rules laws that guide existing tenancy laws of states and examine the distinctive features of the archaic method of land ownership.
India's land ownership system dates back to the Independence, and includes zamindari, ryyatwari and mahalwari systems. The panel may also look at scrapping these ownership titles suggesting alternate forms.
The Tamil Nadu government has made certain amendments to ease land acquisition in the state to develop industry, highways among others, while keeping the rehabilitation resettlement and compensation areas as they are. A number of experts, including NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, believe that the Tamil Nadu model could be replicated by other states, too.