Research Paper: Evolution of Property Rights in India

EVOLUTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS IN INDIA:  Lessons from the past, possibilities for the future by Madhumita Datta Mitra* Right to property is framed as a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is recognized as a fundamental right in most democracies. It is one of the most controversial of rights, always in need of an appropriate definition suited to a nation’s political, social and economic conditions. While all liberal constitutions allow for certain reasonable restrictions on an absolute right to property for some public good, the challenge facing every country is where to draw the line against state interference into a person’s right to own and enjoy property. Download [PDF] I. Introduction In 1950, independent India drafted into its new Constitution a set of fundamental rights for its citizens to free speech, peaceful assembly, association, to move freely throughout the territory, to reside and settle in any part of the country, “to acquire, hold and dispose of property”, and to practice any profession, or carry on any occupation, trade or business. The Constitution also gave the nation an independent judiciary. Of all the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, the right to property has been persistently under attack from the Executive. Political philosophies of the day claimed a need to set right historical wrongs. Whittling down property rights through repeated subversion of the Constitution was the chosen path. This pitted the Executive against the Judiciary, while the former claimed mandate from the people, the latter saw itself to be the final arbiter on the Constitution as framed by the founding fathers. Undermining of the right...

Seeds of a toilet revolution in rural India, a consequence of land rights

During a recent visit with my friends at ARCH Vahini, through remote parts of rural Gujarat in April 2015, where ARCH had been working for many years, I witnessed the seeds of a revolution in the making! For the record, Census 2011, reported that about 67% of rural households, and 53% of urban ones, did not have any toilet. In one block of Narmada district, about 3000 families spread over 20 villages are building their own toilets with great care. In another area not too far away, in one village 60 toilets have been built by government contractors, most of which were not complete, are of poor quality, and about half are not being used by the families for whose benefit these were built. This in a way illustrate the kind of change that could happen in some of these remote villages, if the communities had actively participated in their own developmental  process. Our friends at ARCH, a Gujarat based organisation, had been working in these forest communities to help them claim their rights over land and local forest resources (minor forest produce), under the Forest Rights Act 2006. In the process the local people had become aware and empowered in the process, consequently their capacities and confidence had improved. This is enabling the communities to undertake initiatives such as the effort to build toilets in their homes. Hardly anyone could have predicted such possibilities from FRA! Below are the links from dropbox, of the recent pictures of toilets being built in rural India, which I noticed during our recent travels thro’ the countryside in Gujarat. All these toilets are conventional...

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33,000 cheers for property and liberty in South Africa!

33,000 cheers for property and liberty in South Africa!

By Jasson Urbach, this article was originally published by ISIL, click here for the original article. One hundred years after the 1913 Native Land Act was passed in South Africa, the first fully tradable title deeds were released to black home owners in the Ngwathe municipality in the Free State province. Initiated in 2010, the Free Market Foundation’s (FMF) Khaya Lam (my house) project serves to convert land currently held under a complex variety of restrictive tenures and titles to unambiguous, freely tradable ownership. Secure property rights represent one of the most important requirements for the protection of both economic freedom and civil liberties. The Ngwathe municipality prides itself on the extent to which it has implemented land transformation for black South Africans. Virtually all black-occupied land has been properly surveyed, included in town planning schemes, proclaimed, and registered in the deeds registry. The objective of the ambitious but achievable project is to have all lawfully held plots in South Africa upgraded to unambiguous, tradable and mortgageable ownership at no cost to the lawful residents In consultation with the FMF, the Ngwathe municipality has resolved to become the first urban area in South Africa where all land is privately held under full freehold title on the basis of complete equality between whites and blacks. The project is truly historic and has the potential to be the first ever large-scale substantive project to undo the land disempowerment of apartheid that is still endured by millions of South Africans. It will set a precedent for reform of its kind to continue in South Africa, in other developing countries, and perhaps even in developed...
Recognising Right to Property: An agenda for reforming land related laws and policies

Recognising Right to Property: An agenda for reforming land related laws and policies

Barun S. Mitra and Madhumita D. Mitra March 2014 India’s land management regime has for decades been mired in obsolete laws and misguided policies that distort markets, enable corruption, and deny fundamental property rights. Current land policies are a mix of outdated laws and even more obsolete ways of thinking, many of which are rooted in colonial India. The paradox is best illustrated by the fact that many landowners, including farmers, would like to move out of agriculture, but cannot find remunerative price for their land assets, while industrialists and investors who would like to buy land cannot find access to land at a resonable price. Tens of billions of dollars of investment, in public and private projects have been stalled due to land related conflicts. This land alienation is also contributing to a section of society sympathising with leftwing indurgecy in some parts of India. Land is the only asset that most Indians, even the poorest, possess to at least some degree, but technicalities often prevent them from claiming legal ownership over what they possess. A functioning land market founded on strong property rights would expand the opportunities for economic advancement for those who possess land, empowering them as citizens in a democratic India. Such a market would also allow those with wealth to access and invest in property and engage with land owners in mutually-beneficial transactions, rather than trying to use their waning political influence to access land. The 16th General Elections to the Indian Parliament, the House of the People, (Lok Sabha), is being held thro’ April-May 2014. A new government will take office by the...
“A Property Rights Revolution is Taking Root in Gujarat”

“A Property Rights Revolution is Taking Root in Gujarat”

Last month Ken Schoolland, a long time friend of the Liberty Institute, professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University, and president of the International Society for Individual Liberty visited Gujarat and attended some of our workshops. Ken was really invigorated about what LI and ARCH are trying to accomplish here in Gujarat and has written up a full report about his visit. A property rights revolution is taking root in Gujarat, India, that is spreading across rural India, securing land title for hundreds of thousands of farmers. The evidence of success is so strong that this movement is expected to spread to 900 million plots of land in India and millions more across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. ernando de Soto has called international attention to the lack of property rights in developing nations, resulting in the single greatest deterrent to economic development. But recognizing this isn’t enough. “De Soto’s approach to making change has had limited success so far,” remarks Barun Mitra, President of the Liberty Institute in New Delhi. “De Soto has written books,” says Mitra, “spoken at lofty forums, advised heads of state, suggested ways of changing the law to recognize the property rights of the millions of poor. But this approach has invariably run into opposition by powerful sections of society who have so far benefited from the prevailing lack of clear titles.” Frustrated by the lack of impact from academic conferences, Barun has decided that a real and practical demonstration of establishing property title among the vast population of rural farmers is the only way to prove the value of these...