India-- Context and Land Governance | Land Portal
Flat land near Tso Kyogar, Ladakh, India, photo by travel photography, Creative Commons license - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Original text by the NRMC Center for land Governance. Revision by Daniel Hayward, peer-reviewed by Dr Gaurika Chugh, Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Liberal Education, Galgotias University.

For a country of its immense size, India has an even more immense population. With just under 1.4 billion inhabitants, it is almost as populous as China, yet with a country area (nearly 3.3 million km2) that is a third the size of its giant neighbour[1]. There are 28 States and 9 union territories within the country, many of which practice strong autonomy in both their legal and administrative governance. There was a transition from a socialist to a market economy starting in the 1980s, which had large repercussions for land governance and the land market in the country. India carries a status as a middle-income country and is the fifth largest global economy in terms of its GDP, which was over 3 trillion USD in 2021. However, poverty and inequality remain pronounced, and as a country it contains the second largest absolute number of poor in the world (after Nigeria) [2]. Since 2014, there is a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and with a majority for his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With a long history, diverse geography and pluralistic culture, land governance has evolved in India through communal, imperial, feudal, colonial, and modern systems, gradually moving towards individualization and conclusive titling. Caste also has long been a mobilising factor in land access, ownership, accumulation and dispossession, even if discrimination along these lines was legally banned in 1955. Contemporary land tenure is dotted with mosaics of customary tenure and community ownership in tribal and hilly areas and dwindling rural common lands amidst the expansion of privatized spaces in urban and industrial areas converted from once predominant forest and agriculture landscapes. Indian land governance is at a transition between national aspirations for economic growth incumbent upon making land available for investments, while socialist states within the country are committed to an agenda on land and forest reforms that allocate to and recognise the rights of landless and ethnic minorities. Yet environmental concerns restrict the reallocation of

forestlands and promote the expansion of protected areas. Land conflicts are on the rise as a result of increased competition, continued lack of tenure clarity around common lands, and increasing demands for higher compensation over investment projects on private lands.

Land governance in post-independence India has evolved as a state-subject, with the land-revenue department as the main custodian, while the actual responsibility is shared by number of departments and agencies at the state and local level. This creates governance complexity with overlapping jurisdictions. There are high transaction costs to access and transfer land. Land-related disputes constitute more than half of disputes in civil and a significant number in criminal courts cases, which often entail a dragged-out process that drain private and public resources.

Federal and state governments have brought in many institutional innovations, adopted new technologies to improve land records management, promoted women land rights, facilitated alternate dispute resolution, and brought in tenancy reform. The last seventy years of land governance can be broadly divided into four phases of reforms:

  1. Agricultural land reform from the 1960s to 80s
  2. Attempts at decentralising land governance to local institutions in 1990s
  3. The digitisation of land records aiming at conclusive titling in the early 21st century
  4. Forest, land acquisition, and tenancy reforms occurring mostly after 2010, such as SVAMITVA scheme (see Land Governance Innovations for further information)
Land legislation and regulations

From the 1949 Constitution of India (effective from 1950), “land” is included in the “State” list, meaning that land and land reforms are under the legislative and administrative jurisdiction of the federal States. Meanwhile, “forests” are included under both State and Centre lists, thereby giving jurisdiction to both union and state tiers of government.

The right to property was a fundamental right under the Constitution of India until 1977. In the 44th Constitution amendment from 1978, the right shifted to become a constitutional right protected under the authority of law (Article 300-A). Special provisions are made for the protection of land tenure in tribal regions for the majority of India (known as Fifth Scheduled areas), and then with particular attention for the north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram (known as Sixth Scheduled areas)[3]. For the latter case, no act of Parliament can affect the customary law and ownership and transfer of land.

Soon after Independence in 1947, land reforms carried out in accordance with the socialist agenda of the state aimed to abolish Zamindari (i.e., control of land by local rulers known as zamindars), impose land ceilings, promote land distribution to landless, and consolidate holdings. The laws enacted for the abolition of estate or Zamindaris and intermediaries by 13 States were listed in the 1st Constitution Amendment of 1951 in order to avoid challenge in court by landlords.

It is unknown how many laws exist in India relating to land, harking from colonial times to the present, and between national and sub-national tiers of government. The Centre for Policy Research has estimated that there are more than a hundred laws just on land acquisition[4]. It would be impossible to cover all laws in this brief profile. However, two important pieces of legislation, passed this century, can be highlighted. These laws followed a reformist approach and have had a substantive impact on land governance in India. 

As a progressive forest tenure reform, the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 provides a legal framework for the recording and vesting of forest rights to scheduled tribes and other forest dwellers whose rights were not recognised earlier during the settlement of forests in colonial as well as in independent India. The Indian legal framework makes the Government a trustee of forest resources and land. Forest management and administration was influenced by colonial policies, which treated forest as a source of national revenue. The Indian Forest Act, 1927, was enacted to consolidate laws relating to forests, including the declaration of reserves and protected areas. Most states then framed their own laws after independence. Rapid degradation led to increasing concern for the environmental function of forests and a recognition of their role in conservation. 

This led to the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and National Forest Policy, 1988. The latter policy focused on forest cover preservation and restoration, involving communities in this process to also support their forest needs. The early nineties saw the launch of Joint Forest Management, including community participation in a shared management and use of forests. Only with FRA 2006, were rights recognised for individual or common occupation over forestland towards self-cultivation, access to resources, or habitation for livelihoods. Historically, FRA recognises and empowers the Gram Sabha (Village Assembly) and other village level institutions with the right to protect, conserve and manage Community Forest Resources (CFR) for sustainable use. To protect the rights of vulnerable indigenous tribal groups, the Act also recognises the customary tenure of “habitat and habitations” of vulnerable tribal groups[5].

Farms and Forest, Martali village, Eastern India, photo by goldentakin, Creative Commons license - Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The second law is The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLARR). It was promulgated in 2013, after several rounds of parliamentary debate to replace the allegedly draconian Land Acquisition Act of colonial India and make land acquisition fair and just. It provides compulsory rehabilitation and resettlement assistance to affected families, enhances compensation for farmers and expanded coverage of who can be recompensed, such as to non-landowners facing loss of livelihood. With Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Gram Sabha (village assembly) made mandatory for acquisitions in Fifth Scheduled, areas along with the requirement that affected families must give prior consent to proposed acquisitions by the private section, RFCTLARR has drawn apprehension, wrath, and accolades from different stakeholders. It also prescribes carrying out social impact assessments (SIA) to determine a project's impact on people's lands and livelihoods in consultation with Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI)[6].

The land rights of persons are protected and regulated in state laws. Different states have made protective provisions to check and restore any illegal transfer of land of socially vulnerable groups. States with Fifth Scheduled areas have been empowered to make regulations that protect tribal land and have enacted legislation to prohibit land transfer from tribal to non-tribal ownership in Scheduled areas. In some cases, there are inter-tribal restrictions on land transfer[7]. In the eastern state of Odisha, a 2002 amendment to Regulation 2 of 1956 (also known as The Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By Scheduled Tribes) Regulation) completely bans transfer of immovable property (land) of scheduled to non-scheduled tribes in Scheduled Areas. Andhra Pradesh has legislation “explicitly prohibiting any person in a Scheduled Area from transferring lands to anyone other than a Scheduled Tribe”[8]. The southwestern state of Karnataka has banned any transfer of lands allotted to landless, agricultural labourers belonging to Scheduled Castes or Tribes, without the knowledge of the grantee. However, in most cases, the provisions of these laws are poorly enforced in practice, leading to escalating tensions, growing insurgency and inter-community feuds in tribal areas.

In September 2020, the Modi government passed three agricultural reform bills (known as the farm laws)[9]. It was claimed at the time that these laws would modernise the sector, facilitate markets (allowing farmers to enter into contract farming arrangements outside of a government system of procurement), and boost production. However, farmers took to the streets in protest, complaining that there was no consultation in the drafting of the laws, and that they favour corporations over smallholders, who dominate landholdings in India, with particular concern of the pricing of crops. Due to public pressure, the laws were repealed in November 2021[10].




Land tenure classifications

Three land tenure systems found in India were based on revenue collection systems: 

  • Zamindari (permanent settlements under landlords, in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, parts of Utter Pradesh, and North Madras)
  • Ryotwari (peasant-settlement, renting from the state)
  • Mahalwari (communal) system (in Agra, Oudh and later Punjab)

Ryotwari continued in post-independent India due to the direct relationship between peasants renting land from the state. Subsequently, land rent systems were abolished with only provision of payment of a nominal cess (tax). India’s land tenure typologies are complex due to historical legacy, the compulsions of a welfare state, and emerging economic development. Nevertheless, three broad types are seen in private, government and common land.

Private land 

There exist various types of private land including:

  1. Land owned with transferable and heritable rights.
  2. Land granted to cultivators on lease by government or others with permanent right of possession with or without right of transfer.
  3. Land leased without any permanent right of possession classified in terms of fixed money, fixed produce, share of produce, and usufructory mortgage.
  4. Allotment of government wastelands to the landless tenant, and house-site to homestead-less families under a government land distribution scheme. This intersects with schemes on women rights over land, with joint titling in the name of both spouses.

Additionally, in the context of alienability or transferability, two types of private land ownership exist- freehold and leasehold, which are relevant both in urban and rural areas. Private tenure could also include land in the name of deities and religious trusts, or in use by religious institutions. 

Government land 

In India, government land is held by:

  • Central ministries and agencies
  • State revenue (Land) departments
  • State forest departments
  • Railways and defence agencies
  • Other state department or government institutions
  • Institutions of local self-governance in urban and rural areas

The State of Karnataka uses the term public land and in 2008 established the Karnataka Public Lands Corporation Ltd (KPLC) as the body in charge of managing these lands. Central and state departments (such as the Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of Defence) and organisations (such as the Airport Authority of India and Port Trust Board) are the largest landowners but there is no publicly available information on their land holdings. Forestland (reserved or protected areas) is under the ownership and management of the Forest Department. Enactment of the Forest Rights Act created a new category of community-based forest areas. Forestland within the revenue boundary is under ownership of the revenue department and managed by the Forest Department. There is a lack of land registry databases for government lands both in urban and rural areas and little information on the extent of government lands transferred to private interests.

Common land 

India has a higher proportion of common lands in rural and tribal areas, which are governed by traditional community institutions and under customary tenure. However, there is no commonly agreed or standard legal definition of common land in India, though various typologies are used locally. The National Sample Survey Organisation identifies common property resources as representing lands within a village that are formally held by Gram Panchayat (elected village council, see footnote 6) including village panchayat, grazing and pastureland, village forest and woodlot, village common-use sites and community threshing floors[11]. Technically village common lands are recorded as government lands in the registry. State laws use different terms and provide institutional mechanisms for the management of village commons. Some states have enacted laws for use and management of grazing lands and endowed Gram Panchayat with the responsibility of management and protection. Common land tenure in India is mostly linked to access and user rights with limited management rights.

Under the 1996 Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), the village assembly (Gram Sabha) has the authority to safeguard and preserve community resources including land. But the Act is not yet fully implemented by most states in their Fifth Schedule areas. The substantial decline of common lands over the years and the expansion of state control has resulted in issues of land access, individualisation, expropriation for industrialisation, urbanisation, and unauthorised encroachment. The over-use and exploitation of existing common resources has also led to deterioration in soil quality. The resources are also shrinking, with encroachment a significant factor, decreasing from 90.5 million hectares in 2005 to 73.02 million hectares in 2015[12].

In India, diverse systems of customary tenure exist in codified and oral forms and are practiced more in tribal regions than among mainstream social groups. In the north-eastern states, local customary as well as community land tenure systems are protected under the Constitution.

The Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 recognises more than 13 types of rights which may be categorised into four broad tenure types: individual forest rights, community rights, community forest resource rights and habitat rights. These rights are heritable but non-alienable or transferable with a provision of joint titling in the name of both spouses and in the name of a single household head in cases where this is a woman. FRA rights are passed on to the next-of-kin in the absence of a direct heir.


Tenancy is a predominant tenure type. Land reforms have aimed at abolishing intermediaries and passing tenancy reforms, including land ownership for tenants, albeit with limited success. In practice, the ban on tenancy by law did not help the poor, frequently leading to evictions rather than secure tenure. In 2015, the Government of India constituted an Expert Group under the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), that recommended the legalisation of land leasing for agricultural productivity and efficiency, equity, poverty reduction, and rapid rural change. The Model Tenancy Act was passed in 2021, aiming to govern landlord-tenant relationships, avoiding disputes and thereby encouraging the rental of vacant properties in urban areas.


Land records management

To develop a comprehensive and transparent land record management (LRM) system for ‘conclusive land-titling’ [36], the government of India launched the National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) in 2008 merging two previous centrally sponsored schemes. Further renamed as the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP), the scheme has three major components in the Computerisation of land record, Survey/re-survey and Computerisation of Registration. It aims to usher in a system of updated land records, automated and automatic mutation, integration between textual and spatial records, inter-connectivity between revenue and registration, and a replacement of the present deeds, registration and presumptive titling systems that provides conclusive titling with title guarantee. Its core focus is around providing: (i) a single window to handle land records, (ii) the mirror principle (the record mirrors all facts of the title), (iii) the curtain principle (all details are provided so a purchaser need not worry of past dealings with the parcel), and (iv) title insurance (Department of Land Resources, 2008).

The process of digitising land records started in 1988, accelerated from 2008, and now covers all States and Union territories. According to a 2020 report from the programme, 23 states have completed the computerisation of Record of Rights (RoRs), and 12 of these states are issuing RORs at town/village level or allow web printouts of RORs. 25 States or Union Territories have placed ROR data on their websites, and 17 States have digitised their cadastral maps so that land records can be issued with maps (Department of Land Resources, 2020). Through the system, a 14-digit Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) is ascribed to a land parcel. However, implementation of DILRMP is challenging and time consuming, since states differ over language and terminology for property records. Many states, through Public Services Delivery Acts enacted in the 2010s, are trying to introduce systemic change by making public delivery systems accountable, efficient, accessible, and corruption free.

In 2021, the SVAMITVA scheme (Survey of Villages Abadi and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was launched to better map out land parcels in rural areas using modern technology (see Land Governance Innovations for further information).


Land use trends

A nine-fold land use classification has been adopted in post-independent India[13]. Since 1950, the area of non-agriculture land use (usually urban land) has been steadily increasing, converting croplands, cultivable wastelands, and forests. This land use type now constitutes 8.5% of total land, trebling in 70 years[14]. However, there is a lack of separate reporting on urban land information due to the absence of a readily available and well-maintained urban registry and cadastre or base map in most states. The urban population increased from 23.1% in 1980 to 34.9% in 2020 and is projected to surpass 50% by 2050[15]. Nevertheless, despite rapid urbanisation there is still a large proportion of the population reliant upon agriculture for their livelihoods. This stood at 60% in 2000, decreasing to 42.6% in 2019[16]. Pressures in rural areas have been exacerbated by returnee migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, who were already under insecure conditions of tenure in urban destinations.

There have been several state-based Acts passed in recent years that provide land rights to slum dwellers in urban areas. The 2011 Census reported that about 17% of the urban population (almost 14 million households) were living in slum areas[17]. In 2017, the Odisha state government launched the world’s largest slum titling project through the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act (see also Land Governance Innovations section of this country portfolio)[18]. In October 2019, a new law was passed protecting the 2,000 informal settlements in Delhi[19]. In 2020, the Punjab Slum Dwellers (Proprietary Rights) Act was passed to allow property rights on land.

Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, photo by Mark Hillary, Creative Commons license - Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Since 1961, there has been a continuous decline of village common land including pastures, fallow, and uncultivable waste lands. The India LGAF (Land Governance Assessment Framework) Report (2015) identifies the absence of a Rural Land Use Board, unclear identification and legal categorisation of common lands, and ambiguous allocation of management responsibility and procedures behind conversions[20]. Rural land use planning is virtually absent and ad hoc diversion of common land for housing and commercial purposes is common.

In the post-independence era, forest areas have slowly expanded with more areas being declared as reserved and protected forests by the state. There has also been a simultaneous large-scale diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes at a rate of about 150,000 hectares per year until 1980. India brought in the stringent Forest Conservation Act (FCA) in 1980 to curb and control diversion of forest land by concentrating power with the central forest bureaucracy. As a result, forestland conversion for non-forest uses from October 1980 to July 2016 reduced to approximately 25,000 hectares per year. Through the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, as of 31 August 2021, a total of 5.27 million hectares of forestland have been recognised for individual and community forest rights[21]. However, according to research by RRI and NNRMC, at least 40 million hectares of forest lands are eligible for FRA rights[22].



Land investments and acquisitions

India's LGAF (Land Governance Assessment Framework) Report, 2015 states that an estimated 10% of the land area currently used for agriculture is in demand for urbanisation, infrastructure, and the rapid expansion of industry[23]. Industrial development in India faces opposition from social and environmental movements, local communities, delays in land acquisition, environmental and procedural clearances, and protracted legal battles. Central and state governments are promoting a single window policy and the 2014 ‘Make in India’ campaign to develop India into a global design and manufacturing hub.

Within the federal system, the power to regulate zoning, land-use, and the environment varies between states. States have established industrial area development boards or corporations to take charge of acquiring and transferring land to private industrial use. To facilitate quick availability of land for industrial projects, states have launched Land Bank Schemes by earmarking government land or by acquiring private land in different locations and maintaining them at online GIS portals. Most states prioritising and promoting industrialisation and attracting investment also continue to put restrictions on the right to own, transfer, or convert agricultural land to non-agricultural uses[24].

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, enacted in 2013 by repealing the draconian Land acquisition Act, 1894, combined rehabilitation and resettlement with land acquisition. It prescribed comprehensive processes and elaborative procedures for acquisition of land for “public purpose”. The process of land acquisition now has to follow a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in consultation with representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI – see footnote 6). The law grants an Expert Group assessing an SIA the power to reject the acquisition of public and private houses, settlements, and other common properties, if the SIA reveals the economic and social costs of the project outweigh the project benefits. Public hearings occur in every Gram Sabha of all affected areas where more than 25% of land is proposed to be acquired. The consent of Gram Sabha is mandatory for Fifth Schedule Areas. For compensation, additional entitlements are prescribed for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families, including the continuation of existing reservation benefits in the resettlement area. There is a provision of higher compensation and a guarantee to return unutilised land to the owners. Many argue that the elaborate procedures of land acquisition are time-consuming, complicated, and obstructive. For example, businesses cite the need to obtain approvals from 70% of affected families.

According to a 2016 study by Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) infrastructure projects and investment zones account for almost half of land-related conflicts[25]. Land acquisition by the government is a major cause of conflict, involving 60% of cases. The intensity of conflicts in Fifth Schedule areas are 1.5 times greater than the national average. Land Conflict Watch tracks and reports land conflicts in India[26]. As of January 2022, it reports 781 ongoing conflicts affecting 7.8 million people over 3.9 million hectares of land and affecting US$342 billions of investment. Two-thirds of stalled projects cite acquisition of private land as the root of the dispute. Threats to the commons and dissatisfaction with compensation offered are among major sources of conflicts. 

The upshot of this is that land disputes clog up Indian courts at all levels[27]. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the 805 land acquisition related cases in the Indian Supreme Court during 1950-2016 are related to claims by those who have lost land and have sought enhanced compensation (Wahi et al., 2017). Due to land acquisition conflicts, 14% of about 40,000 projects were stalled between January 2000 and October 2016.

Customary lands have been the source of significant disputes and stalled investments, but have evoked no policy response. Cadastral systems, which formalise ownership through legal entitlement, hardly mention customary arrangements. The lack of such legal recognition neither eliminates customary claims nor makes the lands “empty” to be assigned to new parties.


Women’s land rights

The Constitution of India provides equal rights to both men and women. Many states have taken initiatives to ensure gender justice around land rights. As well as various state-based property rights regimes, there are also succession Acts of various religious groups like Hindu, Muslim and Christian that determine women’s rights to property and inheritance. Fifth and Sixth Scheduled areas have different customary tribal laws on women's property rights and inheritance which also varies among specific indigenous community laws. Women's land rights have been strengthened in many states under land grant initiatives, the provision of joint titling, and amendments to religious acts. However, gender disparities continue in land ownership.

Women’s access to land is largely through inheritance, and yet inheritance is predominantly governed by customs which are highly biased against women despite regional variations across the country. The Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005 brought Hindu women’s inheritance laws on agricultural land on par with men, overriding state laws that discriminated against women. It conferred daughters, including married daughters, birth rights over family property but only with non-retrospective effect.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organisation for the World Bank, a majority of employed women work in agriculture (54.7% in 2019), albeit a decrease from 74.4% in 2000 [28]. Yet only 13.9% of women

own landholdings according to the Agriculture Census, 2015-16. Southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra have created a comparatively better situation for women’s land rights, which may be due to their relatively early amendments to the Hindu Succession Act 1956 [72], which recognised daughters as coparceners (i.e., joint heirs). In these states women are allowed to inherit agricultural land, whether owned or under tenancy[29].

The mainstream patriarchy and the social customs relating to the women’s location in the gender social matrix are real barriers against “writing rights of the woman” over land. Land institutions often discriminate against women in access and ownership of land resources.

Group of women, Odisha State (free licence)


Land Governance Innovations

Through the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act of 2017, the Odisha state government is attempting to provide land rights to 200,000 households living in slum areas within the state[30]. A complex process involves identifying eligible slums, mapping out the targeted land, validating demographic details and finally granting titles. At the beginning of 2022, news reports note that so far, rights have been granted to occupants in 109 municipalities of the state[31].

The SVAMITVA scheme (Survey of Villages Abadi and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was launched in 2021 through the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. It aims to use drones and other technical innovations to map out and clarify parcels for rural inhabitants, allowing a clear Record of Rights. It is hoped that the scheme will ease property disputes, boost local governance, whilst also allowing for clarified revenue collection.

There are various useful web-based innovations supporting land governance in India. One resource is Land Conflict Watch is a data research agency that tries to keep an updated and verified record of land conflicts around India, the number of affected people, the amount of land under conflict, and the amount of investment that is affected. A second useful resource is through the Land Rights Initiative (LRI) at the Centre for Policy Research, who are attempting to collect together land-related laws in India (from union and state levels), and make them available to empower all stakeholders to learn about and know their rights. The website was launched in December 2021 and can be found at


Timeline - milestones in land governance

1950 – Constitution of India becomes effective

Sets out basic use of terms such as land and forest, and designation of responsibility between union and state tiers of government.

2006 – Forest Rights Act is promulgated

Contains progressive forest tenure reform, allowing bottom-up rights within forests for individuals and communities.

2008 – Launch of the National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP)

Programme aims to usher in a system of updated land records, automated and automatic mutation, integration between textual and spatial records, inter-connectivity between revenue and registration, a replacement of the present deeds, registration and presumptive titling systems that provide conclusive titling with title guarantee.

2013 – The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act is promulgated

Provides compulsory rehabilitation and resettlement assistance to affected families, enhancing compensation for farmers, and granting compensation to non-owners facing loss of livelihood.

2016 – Only 13.9% of women own agricultural landholdings

This is according to data from the 2015-16 Agricultural Census.

2017 – Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act promulgated

The world’s largest slum titling project.

2022 – Land conflicts affect 7.8 million people over 3.9 million hectares of land

There are 781 ongoing conflicts affecting US$342 billions of investment.

Where to go next?

The author's suggestion for further reading

For a broader analysis on current Indian political and socio-economic affairs, including linkages to land issues, the authors suggest the latest 2020 country report as part of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) [32]. An excellent analysis of land conflicts, with suggestions for policy reform, is provided in the 2019 report by Centre for Policy Research[33]. Also from this organisation is the website exploring the countless number of laws relating to land in India[34]. For a view of sustainable outcomes through the empowering of communities through the Forest Rights Act, the reader is encouraged to consult the following report on forest-based bamboo trade in Mendha Lekha and Jamguda[35].


[1] FAOSTAT. (2021). FAOSTAT database. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

World Bank. (2022). World Bank Open Data. The World Bank: Working for a World Free of Poverty.

[2]Bertelsmann Stiftung. (2020). BTI 2020 Country Report India. Bertelsmann Stiftung.

[3]Ministry of Law and Justice. (2012). Constitution of India, 1949 (rev. 2012). Government of India.

[4]Wahi, N., Bhatia, A., Shukla, P., Gandhi, D., Jain, S., & Chauhan, U. (2017). Land Acquisition in India: A Review of Supreme Court Cases 1950-2016. CPR Land Rights Initiative.

[5]Ministry of Tribal Affairs, & UNDP. (2014). Forest Rights Act, 2006: Act, Rules and Guidelines. Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, and United Nations Development Programme.

[6]PRI is the system by which the self-government of villages is achieved in India. There are three levels of PRIs, namely Gram Panchayat at village level, Panchayat Samiti at block level and the Zila Parishad at district level.

[7] MoTA, & UNDP. (2016). Land and Governance under Fifth Scheduled Areas-An Overview of the law. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India & United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

[8]Ibid, p. 11.

[9]The three laws are the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

[10]Curtis, J. (2021). Farmers’ protests in India and agricultural reforms. The House of Commons Library, UK Parliament.

[11] NSSO. (1999). Common Property Resources in India. National Sample Survey Organisation, Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India.

[12] Pandey, K. (2019, October 9). India lost 31% of grasslands in a decade. Down To Earth.

[13]The categories are: 1) forests; 2) area under non-agricultural uses; 3) barren and uncultivable land; 4) permanent pastures & other grazing land; 5) land under miscellaneous tree crops; 6) culturable waste land; 7) fallow land other than current fallows; 8) current fallows; and 9) net area sown

[14]NSO. (2021). EnviStats-India 2021: Vol. 1: Environment Statistics. National Statistics Office, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India.

[15](UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2020)

[16]World Bank. (2022). World Bank Open Data. The World Bank: Working for a World Free of Poverty.

[17] Government of India. (2021). 2011 Census Data. Census of India Website.

NB. A 2021 census for India has been delayed, and so results are unavailable at the time of publishing this country profile.

[18]Halder, S., & Kumar, S. (2018, December 12). Putting land rights of slum dwellers on the government’s agenda. India Development Review.

[19]Chandran, R. (2019, October 25). Four million slum dwellers in Delhi to win property rights. Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

[20]World Bank Group. (2015). India—Land Governance Assessment National Synthesis Report. World Bank Group.

[21]Lekshmi, M., Samal, A. K., & Sahu, G. (2021, December 22). 15 Years of FRA: What Trends in Forest Rights Claims and Recognition Tell Us. The Wire Science.

[22]RRI, Vasundhara, & NRMC. (2015). Potential for Recognition of Community Forest Resource Rights Under India’s Forest Rights Act. Rights and Resources Initiative, Vasundhara, Natural Resources Management Consultants.

[23]World Bank Group. (2015). India—Land Governance Assessment National Synthesis Report. World Bank Group.

[24] ibid

[25]RRI, & TISS. (2016). Land Conflicts in India: An Interim Analysis. Rights and Resources Initiative, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

[26]LCW. (2022). Conflicts Database. Land Conflict Watch.

[27]Wahi, N. (2019). Policy Challenges 2019-2024: Regulations and Resources—Understanding Land Conflict in India and Suggestions for Reform. Centre for Policy Research.

[28]World Bank. (2022). World Bank Open Data. The World Bank: Working for a World Free of Poverty.

[29]Choudhury, P. R., Behera, M. K., Sharma, S., & Haque, T. (2017, March 20). Combining Administrative and Open Source Data for Monitoring Land Governance: Mapping Women Land Rights in the Context of UN’s SDG in India. 2017 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Washington DC.

[30]Halder, S., & Kumar, S. (2018, December 12). Putting land rights of slum dwellers on the government’s agenda. India Development Review.

[31] TNN. (2022, January 1). Nod To Land Rights For Slum Dwellers In 5 Municipal Bodies | Bhubaneswar News—Times of India. The Times of India.

[32] Bertelsmann Stiftung. (2020). BTI 2020 Country Report India. Bertelsmann Stiftung.

[33]Wahi, N. (2019). Policy Challenges 2019-2024: Regulations and Resources—Understanding Land Conflict in India and Suggestions for Reform. Centre for Policy Research.

[34]The website is found at: 

[35]CS. (2015). Forest-Based Bamboo Trade in Mendha Lekha and Jamguda. Centre for Civil Society.

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