Author Archives: Ramesh Menon

    Suit Boot aur Land acquisition

    Category : Blog

     

    Before we get deeper into the subject of this debate versus the reality of development economics, let us look at two instances, both quoted widely by the anti-LARR Bill lobby.

    1. Owing to the Narmada Dam Project, the Gujarat state in Western India has increased the total cultivable land by approximately 37 lakh hectares, over the past little more than a decade.
    1. When protests in West Bengal created impediments for the creation of Tata group car manufacturing unit, they quickly shifted their green field Nano factory into Gujarat.

    Of late, this debate has been raging in India about the government amending the Land Acquisition Act to favour the Corporate Houses. Is this argument tenable?  

    Almost to the day, the current Narendra Modi government has spent one year in office. It may be recalled that the middle class had over-reachingly voted for stability and development a year back. The middle class is fast rising in the country and also moving rapidly into urbanised economic hubs. Delhi alone has approximately seventy-five thousand families gravitating from the rural areas to Delhi.

    So if job creation needs to be the foremost responsibility of the government, shouldn’t industrialisation in cities, or special economic hubs, keep pace with the migration into urban centres. But for all of this, we need land.

    As often professed by this author, there may be ‘historical reasons’ for reforms not touching the lives of the farmers / landowners towards which we need to adopt a ‘corrective approach’ immediately. It seems that the arguments made against the act are aimed at the media, who normally get fatigued by such issues within 72 hours. We need long term corrective measures and land reforms to ensure that the rural economy and the urban economy are complementing each other’s’ growth.

    Short of selling the fear & hope to the land owning farmer community, our policies need to be forward looking. Data reveals that almost 60% of vegetables and fruits produced by the farmers decay owing to lack of warehousing space. If we need to percolate the development economics, we need to accelerate the rollout of infrastructure deep into the rural landscape. A certain amount of land has to be acquired to provide infrastructure to benefit these very villages & villagers whose interest is said to be defended. How can this be termed as ‘land grabbing’ by the detractors?

    As an example, Gurgaon, today has more than 1.5 lakh people of origins in West Bengal, staying in not so conducive atmosphere, engaged in menial jobs at the bottom of the pyramid. A brief study of this ‘sample audience’ clearly exemplifies that agriculture in their native villages is no longer a paying vacation. The lack of industrial activity over the past two decades has also ‘dried-up’ skilled jobs. If that be the case, would not it be case in point to industrialise that state by either acquiring the land directly from the farmers at prices higher than the current market price and create jobs by industrialising pockets. Who benefitted by Tata Nano exiting W. Bengal?

    The Planning Commission (now Niti Ayog) estimates that the agriculture production improved by 8.5% (approx.) between 2005- 2012 in Gujarat while the national average remained at 4%. Likewise the primary sector in the state GDP declined to 5% whereas both services and industry showed remarkable growth in Gujarat.

    This argument that India would lose its food security by industrialisation is not tenable, since we also can, by creation of infrastructure through the innovative projects like river linkages, national highways, bridges; check dams etc. bring more arid lands into cultivation. Also Neo Modern technologies can be used to improve farm out-put. There is indeed a need for a second ‘green revolution’ which can target improvement in productivity or yield per acre and not just the total land under cultivation by any farming family. A good mix of   cash crops, fisheries, poultry and such produce in the villages which can be profitably sold to urban centres can benefit the farmers and negate losses, if any, on account of portions of land being acquired for industrialisation purpose.

    My argument is that for the development of village level economies, it is necessary to focus on improving the income levels, per working member of the family. We could immediately mark a target of 25% growth year on year in chosen villages and create a few success stories. The Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna (SAGY) can possibly be a catalyst by critically addressing the development economics in each of these villages being adopted by Members of Parliament.

    Some debates are best concluded within a pre-defined time frame.

     

    The author, Ramesh Menon MRICS, currently forms part of the founding team of Certes realty Ltd, with the expertise in Urbanization of Delhi, and the Delhi master plan MPD 2021

     


    Brief history of Farmhouses in Delhi

    Category : Articles , Blog

    There never existed a policy for the organised development of the Farmhouses in Delhi. Most existing farmhouses mushroomed over the past four decades. There is a policy now, which not just recognises Farmhouses as a separate product category, but also offers a framework for organised development.
     
    In the 1960s, Delhi was still a largely agrarian society, and land wasn’t at a premium. The government was focused on setting up DDA, to create middle class housing stock to cater to the influx of people into Delhi. Land in villages was used for farming, and the landowners were permitted to build a dwelling unit on the agricultural land, to facilitate them to stay overnight, to tend to their agricultural produce. It was never intended to be a first home.
     
    With incremental affluence in the 1980s & 90s, land under some villages in South Delhi changed hands from villagers to the HNI segment. Farm house colonies were created by the private sector developers, as well as consortiums of individuals. The government too ignored this segment as these private individuals were providing for themselves, both infrastructure & amenities. There were no written down building bylaws on Farmhouses.
    In the course of time, the land owners built ‘large mansions’, in most cases exceeding the laid down norms for FAR, height & land coverage.
     
    By the turn of this century, there were multiple farmhouse colonies in Delhi. The Municipal corporation estimated that there were more than more than 7000 dwelling units, of which, the MCD itself had accorded legal sanction to 70%. These farmhouses were neither ‘Legally illegal’, nor ‘Illegally legal.’
     
    Over the past decade & half, umpteen efforts were made to legalise these structures, and put in place guidelines, not just for the regularisation of the existing farmhouses, but also create fresh stock of high end Farmhouse residential areas.
     
    Under the Delhi master plan 2021, provisions were made towards the same. During the review of the same through 2012-14, the government felt the need for a rank new pragmatic policy.
     
    The Low Density Residential policy (LDRP) was notified 2013.
    In 2015, the Delhi Urban Arts commission (DUAC) revisited the building bylaws and amended them.
     
    Your investment today into Farmhouses in Delhi, would most probably be the best investment decision, tomorrow.

    Ramesh Menon is available on menon@certesrealty.com

     

     


    Ill thought out LDRA policy of Delhi

    Category : Blog

    There can’t be anything more ill-thought that the LDRA policy of Delhi. (More popularly known as the Farmhouse policy of Delhi).

    Just to trace the history of this policy.

    It was hastily drawn up on the very last mile of the UPA govt, in 2013. Remember, the nation was going to the polls in April’ 2014, and this policy was pushed through towards the last quarter of 2013.

    There can’t be any doubt that there would have been extraneous compelling reasons to notify this in a hurry, without considering the legal implications, as well as the sustainability of the same.

    There are three departments which have a say in governing the policies, and approvals of the Farmhouses in Delhi – the Delhi Development authority (DDA), the Municipal corporation of Delhi and the Revenue department.

    All three bodies are governed by their own acts & rules. The DDA follows the DDA act, the Municipal corporation follows the MCD act and the Revenue department finds the Delhi Land reform act sacrosanct.

    The problem is all these acts were created in the 1950s, and the relevance of many of the tenets therein, are questionable.

    When the policy was notified by DDA & the ministry of Urban development, they failed to refer the other two governing acts, and made a complete hash of it.

    We are in the Q1 of 2016, and there still is a stalemate on the same.

    I intend to detail out the shortcomings, and the solutions thereof, and submit a detailed suggestions memorandum to the authorities towards the end of February’ 2016.

    I should post them here too.


    The futile exercise of ‘Chakbandi’ in Delhi villages

    Category : Blog

    Ever since the new State Government in Delhi headed by Mr. Arvind Kejriwal has assumed office, there have been a few discussions to invigorate earlier initiatives for the development of the villages (so called Rural villages) in Delhi.

    Agreed, such initiatives should be supported wholeheartedly, and by all. However, the tools that are being planned for deployment are (in many cases) irrelevant and some reek of technical ignorance.

    One such discussion is about “Extending the Laldora” of the villages which are covered under the Land pooling, to accommodate the additional population migrating into the villages. That precisely is WRONG ASSUMUPTION # 1.

    So, to increase the land area under Lal Dora, the government has to provide more land for conversion into residential plots. There are only two ways to reach that goal.

    1. Acquire land directly from farmers
    2. Initiate Chakbandi of the entire ‘Raqba’ of the village

    Acquire one cannot, as the tenets of the Land acquisition rehabilitation & resettlement bill 2014 has kicked in. Also, when the government acquires, it pays a much lower compensation than the market price. The Delhi farmers are much more knowledgeable & informed to allow ego tussles between two wings of the government to subject them to monetary loss.

    That brings us to the second option of Consolidation.

    What exactly is the ‘Chak bandi’ or Consolidation exercise?

    The basic premise of the ‘Chakbandi’ exercise is to amalgamate and redistribute all or any of the land in any revenue village, so as to reduce the number of plots in the holding. It is done under the East Punjab Holdings (consolidation & prevention of fragmentation) Act 1954.

    Historically, the consolidation process of any village does not get completed within the defined time limits and have taken upward of 15 to 20 years !!! Here is a list of some villages whose consolidation exercise hasn’t seen the light of the day since the past many decades.

    VillageList

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    There are also villages like Ladpur where this exercise hasn’t been initiated in independent India. (Since last 68 years)

    Let’s take the next argument of Demography of villages. The pro voices would argue that the population of villages in on the increase, and that the area of Lal Dora should be increased, thereby provide shelter to the villagers.

    Let’s take a look of data from the census 2001 & 2011 of some randomly drawn sample villages.

    ZONE “N”

    Population N zone

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A careful analysis shows that the population growth has been lower than the normal growth than the rest of the country. The population increase in Savda was owing to the slum resettlement project, Ranikhera for Mundka industrial project and Karala for the unauthorized colonies that came up over the past 10years.

    Population L zone Population P2 zone

     

     

    We can be sure that any increase in the village population has been owing to some economic activity trigger in the surrounding areas. With the urbanization of sub cities like Dwarka & Rohini, many families from the surrounding rural areas have already moved to these sub cities owing to the quality of life, physical – social –recreational infrastructure.

    There have been no spikes in population in villages, which are covered under the Land pooling policy. Seasonal migration of temporary farm workers does not constitute incremental population.

    Hence, that argument too can be ruled out.

    Let’s look at the potency of argument No. 03 – Land Pooling vs. Chakbandi exercise

    Why Consolidation (Chak Bandi) of Land in Delhi villages cannot be undertaken before Land pooling exercise.

    The process of Consolidation is irrelevant in the context of Land pooling owing to the following key reasons.

    1. The average land holding in Delhi (like in rest of India) is less than One hectare, and almost 90% of the land parcels are in that category.
    2. Land parcels are under the joint holding of family members, and the provisions of the Delhi Land reforms act 1954 do not allow the land to the fragmented amongst the family members.
    3. The consolidation exercise needs 80% consent through an application to the LG, of the villagers, who today do not see an impending need to consolidate their lands. They would rather monetize their land parcels through the recently announced ‘Land Pooling scheme’ of DDA.
    4. Even where the consolidation was ordered, the process is extremely lengthy and consolidation exercise takes anywhere between 10-20 years for completion. (*Please see chart attached)

    Let’s examine the specific benefit under the Land pooling.

    • When the administration undertakes the colsolidation exercise in any village, the norm is to return back about 30-40% of the surrendered plot back to each villager, as approved Lal Dora RESIDENTIAL land, after a wait of almost 20 years.
    • Under the Land pooling policy, DDA has notified that they would give back 48-60% land back, in the form of a developable plot of land, wherein the land owner is allowed to develop multi storeyed residential dwelling units.
    • The landowner could also monetize his re-allotted land by trading the FSI to another developer, OR, enter into a relationship of a Joint venture partner OR developer.
    • The DDA has issued timelines wherein they endevor to re-allot the ‘converted residential plot’ within an approved sector of the new sub city, within 18-24 months. (Whereas, under Chakbandi, it would take decades).
    • Under the land pooling policy, the plot of land re-allotted back to the land owner would be LIQUID, and he could not just trade, but also leverage loans on the land. Lal Dora lands in the village do not qualify for loans, currently, owing to the lack of an integrated layout plan of the entire village.

    There is data that post extension of the village ‘Abadi land’ by alloting them Lal Dora plots, the economic sphere of the farmer hasn’t changed one bit, but rather, it has declined.

    This author has undertaken substantial ground level research at the Delhi villages, and can authoritatively state that the villages of Delhi are a world apart from the villages in many other states The constituents of villagers in Delhi are not only educated but also gainfully employed in the industry. They are well versed with the urbanisation process and have the ability to protect themselves against any unlawful land acquisition. . Possibly, like many other authorities, the Delhi Government too is mistaken about the eco-system of Delhi villages.

    Why the Farmers would be against Chakbandi & extension of Lal Dora in each village

    • Under the Land pooling policy, DDA would pool the land submitted by the villagers, and give them “Residential Plots” in lieu of the land surrendered. Contrary to the acquisition process wherein the Landowner was losing his land assets, livelihood & quality of life, the Land pooling process actually enhances all three, multifold.
    • Every Land owner knows that under Land pooling, they can upgrade their quality of life by participating in the development process, and that even if they part monetize their assets, they can actually buy a larger piece of land in surrounding villages, which are either notified as LDRA villages, or in Haryana.
    • Even if the process of ‘Chakbandi’ is initiated in any village, the villagers are sure that the same cannot be completed in a time bound manner, thereby, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in the development process, and monetize their assets. (During the process of ‘Chakbandi’, the Landowners are notionally considered ‘Be’Dakhal’ from their land, and they cannot sell, lease, monetize OR engage in any activity whereby they establish any ownership rights).
    • When the Farmers are extended the benefits of the Incentivized redevelopment scheme, the Existing Abadi area of Lal Dora lands too would be consolidated and redeveloped with all modern infrastructure & amenities.
    • The villagers are being given two options under the Land pooling scheme, which are easily monetized.
    • Plot of land against Land surrendered
    • Tradable FAR
    • The above would add much more to individual earnings, than the extension of Lal Dora abadi land (which would take decades to consummate)

    The villages in Delhi are much different than the villages in other states. The average level of education as well as awareness is much higher, and every village is within 7-10 kms of existing urbanized areas. There is at least one member of each family who is either gainfully employed in Govt. departments like Govt of NCT, DDA, MCD, Delhi Police etc.

    Every village is aware of the development of ‘SMART CITIES’ and such new concepts, whereby the government plans to set up ultra modern city on the land contributed by the farmers. They certainly do not wish to be excluded from the development process, and would like to be a stakeholder in the same. Today, the villagers of Delhi are seeking that Knowledge based industrial parks be set up, and that their skill levels be enhanced on industries like ITeS, Financial services, manufacturing etc. rather than old economy skills on Farming & handicraft.

    The villages are already moving towards a surplus entrepreneurial ecosystem from a subsistence economy.

    This author feels that an exercise for the sake of the same need not be undertaken unless there is an intentional plan to throw spanner in to Land Pooling Policy of DDA.


    Would 74/4 land be an impediment to Land pooling?

    Category : Blog

     

    By Ramesh Menon

     

    With the DDA announcing the Land pooling policy, and the implementation of the same likely within a couple of months, it’s imperative that the policy makers spare a thought to this one impediment to the planned urbanization of Delhi:-

    The Land allotted to the Landless in the 1970s, more popularly referred to by the local landowners as “74/4” .

    A brief history of reference “74/4 land”

    During the mid 1970, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime minister initiated the 20 points programme with the intent to provide succor & uplift the poor & underprivileged sections of the society. The then government allotted agricultural land, largely from the Gram sabha account, to the landless farmers from the weaker sections of society, so that the recipients could create subsistence farming.

    The same was done in the villages of Delhi too, and there are multiple acres under various villages which have passed on from one generation to another, and the same is referred to as “74/4” land. (Only the physical possession remains within the family, although there are no documents to prove otherwise).

    Although the said scheme was discontinued in 1989, and no more such allotments were made thereafter, there is substantial confusion about the status of these lands, allotted then. (Although, it is acknowledged that the purpose of the scheme was achieved by drawing parity amongst the castes & landholders amongst the villages)

    The government, over the past decade & a half has acknowledged that forward-looking decision(s) need to be taken about the status of these lands, in the ever-urbanizing landscape of Delhi.   The necessary action thereof from the government, were taken up for discussion multiple times by the Delhi assembly; various committees appointed for fact finding & grievance redressal*, as well as the various competent authorities to ascertain the following facts: –

    * Suggestions / Objections / Opinions & grievances were sought from the general public solicited through advertisements in leading dailies

     

    1. Allotment of residential/agricultural land under 20 Point Programme
    2. Conferment of title/rights in respect thereof and protection of such rights during acquisition and consolidation of land;
    3. Vesting of land in Gaon Sabha under Section 81 of the Delhi Land Reform Act, 1954;
    4. Consolidation of land holdings in Delhi to address the need for extension of the Lal Dora/Abadi in villages on account of expansion of families;

    The public response has always been overwhelming whenever the government has solicited participation in planning & ease of business, and it was likewise in this matter. Responses poured in, broadly classified under following categories:

    1. Persons who were allotted land under the 20 Point Programme, but could not get legal possession (Absolute ownership rights)
    2. People who are in possession but the revenue records don’t accord absolute rights to the family tilling the land.
    3. Lack of civic amenities.
    4. Suggestions/complaints against misuse of Section 81 of the DLR Act.
    5. Compensation claims.
    6. Persons who were allotted land/plots but later dispossessed or forcibly evicted.
    7. Cases not covered under the 20 Point Programme.
    8. Extension of Laldora and abadi.
    9. Irregularities in chakbandhi.

    With the DDA announcing the land pooling policy, there needs to be clarity on the ‘74/4’ lands, more specifically on how the lands would be treated, for the purpose of Pooling.

    Also, if the government has to obtain the possession back, how would the compensation, rehabilitation & resettlement provisions be implemented?

    Since there is no automatic inheritance of these lands, what would be the institutional mechanism be?

    How does the government plan to distinguish between the ‘Asami’ & “Bhumidar”?

     Many of the said allottees have Sold their lands by way of the General power of attorney (GPA) which the government did not take cognizance of, earlier. The GPA issue remains confusing with the recent contradictory stands taken by DDA, and the Supreme Court’s judgement.

     

    This being a small part of the larger problem statement.


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