The LAND-at-scale program acknowledges the central role of climate change. In a short series of blogs, the knowledge management team highlights the diverse impact that climate change has on communities across the world, and how LAND-at-scale projects contribute to adaptation and mitigation measures on the ground. In this blog we talk to Karel Boers, who works with IOM UN-Migration as a durable solutions program M&E coordinator for the Saameynta program in Somalia.
This blog analyses a Land administrative innovation - Land Pooling Policy which is being used an alternate approach to land acquistion in urban development context. It argues that how this has become a land grabbing instrument by private players through public private partnership, bypassing urbanisation with newer legal mechanisms shaped in corporate interest to assembling land and developing physical and social infrastructure.
This What to Read digest introduces three recent articles that take a different view on urban Africa. The publications refer to innovative ways to secure tenure in cities, obstacles to urban agriculture, and bring insights into the agency and opportunities of urban refugees.
Prindex Senior Land Governance Advisor Denys Nizalov argues that developing large, flexible rental markets with strong protections for renters and landlords can stimulate economies and support post-covid economic recoveries.
Curating land information is part of our daily work in the Land Portal. It includes selecting, categorizing, and enriching information with analysis and/or additional data, graphic visualizations, etc. In times with so much information available to choose from, people are increasingly seeking sources that offer selections of high-quality knowledge and provide analysis that make sense of it. Understanding how partners in the land community are meeting this demand is a great source for us to improve our work of curating, and providing meaning to land data.
How much land matters to each of us as citizens, students and faculties, and how much we know about them? Is it too complex to ignore, something that matters to us as property, identity or even as a stratum of lives and base of development, to a handful of bureaucrats, lawyers or surveyors?
Here is a student internship, jointly designed by FLAME University, Pune and a land think tank – Centre for Land Governance, that shows why land matters more now and if and how students can also familiarise themselves and analyze land issues that are important to their lives and that of others.
During the initial interaction, all the girl students, who had joined the internship, were intrigued by a question specifically asked to them, “How many of you are aware of your or your mother’s name in your family land records?”. This question made them think of women's land rights and narrate their stories around that, which were not much different from the patriarchal rural India. The students slowly started realising the importance of land records in the context of enshrined legal equality.
Land as a discipline critically resonates with environmental studies, economics, law, sociology, anthropology and political science as well as to applied disciplines like public policy, business management or geospatial technology etc. However, it is hardly studied and occasionally researched in Universities, B-Schools and technology institutes. That remains a fact, despite the challenges these institutions face in getting land for their own utilization and others having issues for their own properties.
Not one student was even aware of what a land record looks like. Yash, a 4th year student majoring Public Policy said, “maybe we have seen it but not sure what it includes”. Many of them studied Geographic Information Systems (GIS) but they were never aware how that has been used in India’s land record digitisation program and if their skills make them read these records better?
Land is continued to be looked at as a complex and contested space that the common man should avoid engaging with, even when its importance as a crucible of development and asset for economic growth is on rise. Academic engagements can also flow with the current. Generating information and evidence that make policy, practice and interaction with land easier, less contested and more rewarding are rare and hardly pursued in universities.
However, with a week’s training, the students were able to learn the basics of land governance. Once they started accessing and interpreting digital land records, interesting observations came flowing in. For Rahul, a 4th year student with Economics as a major, it was fun to explore terms like “Khewat, Khasra, Khatauni, Khata and Khatiyan and to understand which is a subunit of what and which is a synonym?” For example, Esha, a 4th year Environmental Studies student noted to her dismay that “Women landowners are rare, and when they exist, they are hardly the only owner of the land”. She kept wondering why women always owned much less land than men and also made their own property jointly with men. Aditi, another student, observed “even in a village occupied by Gond, a dominant tribe of Central India, the women landowners’ scenario does not change.” She spent time separating female landowners, by reading and comparing each name, as no gender column was there in the on-line land record portal.
Through this internship, the concept of presumptive titling, prevalent in India, was also discussed and understood by the students and faculty members. Under this system, legacy records like historical transactions viz old survey records or inheritance records also count as evidence and the onus remains on the owner to prove the ownership. Traditionally, various documents related to land records are created and maintained by different departments e.g. The Revenue department deals with tax and mutation, whereas the registration office deals with sale deed registration and transfer of ownership, while land records and survey departments create and deal with the maps. Many times such offices do not even communicate with each other to keep the records updated. Ground verification process suffers from weak human resources. While comparing the textual (RoR) with spatial (cadastral maps) records and with on ground (google earth images) situations, students could observe such differences. They could realize how and why such discrepancies and disputes accompany land records.
As competitive demand and financial options around land grow and ‘ease of doing business’ require easy and fast land transactions and dispute resolution, moving towards a conclusive titling system is voiced by the government. In 2008, the Department Land Resources, Government of India, started implementation of “National Land Records Modernization Programme” (NLRMP) to computerize the records and develop transparent data. Later, it got revamped under “Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme” (DILRMP). The objectives of the programme were (i) to have a single window to access both, spatial and non-spatial data, (ii) make the data as true to the ground reality as possible – real time updating, (iii) to implement “curtain” principle where records of the title are true depiction of the reality and mutations are automated and (iv) title insurance. In their pursuit to understand and analyse DILRMP progress in different states, they not only did get impressed with the quantum of work done and their online availability, but also had challenging experience around access and incongruity.
For the internship work, the students looked at intra-state district-wise progress of DILRMP implementation in seven states around computerization of land records, digitisation of cadastral maps and resurvey in DIRLRMP website while taking care to check the claims by visiting respective state land record sites, where they are actually available. For a 3rd year student of Environmental studies, Pranaay it was a tough time in accessing usable information from state sites. “We faced difficulty in getting geospatial information and contacting the government officials also did not help as they were unaware of this kind of information”, he says while exploring the cadastral map. Faculties and guides from both institutions, had to extend their imaginations to help students in getting access to and retrieve right information.
A common finding was that despite good progress of computerisation of textual records, the spatial or mapping component have remained a challenge. For example, Manya and Devanshi, also Environmental Studies students, noticed that “there are no geographic coordinates present on the Bhunaksha site” for maps of villages for Bihar. Esha and Karishma, found some RoR links returning blank pdf files in the state of Chhattisgarh, which was found to be having accessible websites with easy interfaces. Being students from Pune, Sayali and Aditi, were surprised to see Amaravati district doing well where has Satara remained at the bottom, in Maharashtra, in terms of a computerisation index they developed combining progress and comparing the digitisation parameters reported in DILRMP vs that is available in state sites.
As they went through relevant government websites such as Bhulekh, Bhunaksha, Bhumanchitra, Bhuvan Panchayat, Census and PMKisan etc. to access textual, spatial records, village maps and demographic, land use and direct benefit transfer to farmers’ data, it was both a learning experience as also a game of patience for them. Pranaay and Rahul had to keep spending hours struggling to get useful information from Jamabandi site for Haryana, while for Esha and Karishma working on Chhattisgarh it was a cake walk. Thriptha, a 4th year student now said “I was not aware of so many Government Departments, their rich data availability and about the land records before joining the internship.”
These datasets were used by Interns to analyse the land ownership, distribution and land record matching status at village level. Exploring village specific data from Census and matching with land record data, they could see how caste, gender and class relations impact land ownership and landlessness. Sayali could understand the importance why digital land portals should provide caste and sex-segregated data around land ownership. In a village, with very few land owning farmers, she was surprised to find many PMKisan beneficiaries.
In spite of their harrowing experience many of them appreciated the digitization initiative to map and document such a large country. However, almost all of them were disturbed to witness the gender and caste inequity in terms of land ownership as well as land concentration with a few households in almost all villages.
As student researchers now they have many insights and opinions on digital land records, e-governance, technology-society interaction and more importantly how government works? Yash, Pranaay and Rahul are now in a position to suggest technological improvements in the government websites that can help seamless access. The cherry on the icing was when Prof Narayanan from Azim Premji said “students have carried out a good preliminary research at such a granular level. No university in the country has been engaged in this critical area which is tightly linked with the future economy. Congratulations to the team!”
What is the role of land law in natural disasters? Are current global systems of land law fit-for-purpose as we experience escalating rates of climate disruption?
In the second PhD session of the LANDac Conference 2021, three PhD researchers presented their work in progress. We learned about slums in Abuja, Nigeria, about forest rights in India, and about the relation between inequalities in soil fertility, gender, and access to subsidies. Each presentation was discussed by an expert from the LANDac network.
Urban Green Spaces (UGS) are vegetated open spaces that provide a multitude of ecological functions that are essential for the physical and mental well-being of the citizens as well as for the urban environment. However, land is an extremely competitive resource in cities that are struggling to sustain the ever-growing urban population and UGS are constantly under threat of urban encroachment. Even the well spread out cities are pressured to densify by the more commonplace ‘sustainable dense urban neighbourhood’ approach that in turn, increases the pressure on open spaces such as UGS.
This session aimed to generate discussions on different experiences of infrastructure development that addresses climate change in cities. It paid particular attention to new transportation “corridor” development, which has increasingly become popular as a way to redesign the rapidly growing city to reduce traffic congestions and thereby carbon emissions, promote affordable public transportation system, and to make public green spaces accessible for all the citizens. However, it is known that it significantly affects ways that urban land is used, accessed and governed by local communities.