India-Land and Development Conference (ILDC) – 2020 held in New Delhi from March 2 to 4 saw a lively debate on a wide range of issues relating to India’s land sector. More than 100 academicians, young researchers, activists and policy makers made their presentations in the conference spread across 34 thematic and two plenary sessions. More than 350 delegates participated in the event.
Among the other issues, ILDC-2020 witnessed a dispassionate critique of some of the major legislative and policy initiatives that the Government of India and various state governments have undertaken in the past two decades. These included the Right to Transparency, Fair Compensation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement in Land Acquisition Act-2013, the Forest Rights Act-2006, Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, the Model Land Leasing Policy, the Government of Odisha Slum Dwellers’ Land Right Act-2017, various schemes for housing the urban poor, including the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana and various issues affecting land governance in the Scheduled areas.
The conference also discussed the Index of Land Records Digitization and Services brought out by the National Council for Applied Economic Research, recent development around pastoral and common land, constraints posed by the land sector for promotion of investment in India. It emerged from the deliberations that while India has seen a significant improvement both in land administration and strengthening of land tenure security, a point which global land expert and co-founder of Landesa Tim Hanstad underlined in his valedictory address.
However, some stark equity issues in land distribution especially the miniscule proportion of land held by Dalits in India also came to the fore. India also continued to lag behind in reporting on its progress towards achieving the land related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGSs) it was pointed out. Speakers at various thematic panels also noted that India’s approach to the problems of the land sector still lacks an integral view of the sector as a whole. The continued domination of piece-meal solutions to the problems which are essentially inter-connected has resulted in solutions often creating a fresh crop of problems.
It also emerged that an integral approach to solving land problems would need a fundamental change in the way India conceptualized its very idea of achieving development. A production-dominated system which prioritizes an ever increasing rate of growth of gross-domestic product would keep the land sector ever a site of conflict. In the long-run, an alternative imagination of development itself is called for to find more sustainable solutions to land-related problems. This view was also found a strong echo in the keynote address delivered by Prof. Nikita Sud of the University of Oxford In which she argued that a multi-dimensional perspective of land going beyond its conceptualization merely as a factor of production is called for as land continuously shaped and is shaped by its multi-layered, multi-faceted interface with the people.
Organizing Secretary of ILDC-2020 Pranab Ranjan Choudhury argued that a multi-stakeholder partnership with a multi-disciplinary perspective is required to have a rounded understanding of emerging land issues in India.