NCAER organised its first India Land Forum 2020 (ILF 2020) during November 24-27, 2020. Subtitled “Data-driven Research & Evidence for Land Policy in India”, the four-day, virtual ILF 2020 featured original papers on India by land researchers and NCAER’s own research based on a unique, state-wise data set that NCAER has put together in compiling the N-Land Records and Services Index released in February, 2020. The N-LRSI database is available on NCAER’s Land Portal.
The ILF 2020 was organised by the NCAER Land Policy Initiative with the aim of highlighting the gaps in economic research, policy analysis, and systematic data on land. The keynote speech for ILF 2020 on November 24 was delivered by Professor T. Haque, Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development and former Chairman of NITI Aayog Special Cell on Land Policy and of the Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices. Setting the tone for the conference, Professor Haque noted that: “nothing could be better than when your policies are research and evidence based so that they are more acceptable to policymakers and to people at large…Absence of appropriate land policies and land management practices come in the way of land improvement, infrastructure development, as well as technological innovations.”
Earlier, in opening the ILF 2020, Dr Shekhar Shah, NCAER Director General, stated that the event is the first major airing of the work that the NCAER team has been pursuing for the past three years. The Coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for greater attention to issues around land policy and land markets as migrants have returned home to rural areas and possibly the only asset they could fall back on. It is important to think about how to improve land records and the ability to generate cash flows using land as collateral or through leasing.”
Ms. Shilpa Kumar, Partner at Omidyar Network India, welcomed participants and noted that “the Omidyar Network India was focusing on land and property rights with the motivation that if every Indian had secure property rights, they would be able to more meaningfully leverage the rights for their economic and social wellbeing…There has been a growth in the body of knowledge in this space and at forums like this, so the dialogue becomes all the more exciting.”
Over 4 days, the ILF 2020, had sessions on “Modernizing India’s Land Records”, “Evaluating Title Records and Property Valuation Systems in India”, “India’s Land Records Data shows Women are far behind”, “Land as Collateral for Access to Credit in India”, and “Urban Housing and Land”. The ILF 2020 also featured two panel discussions. The first roundtable titled “Making Land Leasing Work for Transforming Indian Agriculture” was held on November 25 and the second on November 27th focused on the “Experience with Innovative Technology including drones for Cadastral Mapping and Titling Programs” reviewing examples of these initiatives in India and Ukraine.
Mr Deepak Sanan, NCAER Senior Advisor and N-LPI project co-lead, noted that “Understanding issues in land is critical for realizing the potential that land holds for sustainable and equitable development. This workshop has helped advance the goal of assisting evidence-based policy in land matters, much like our previous work on the N-LRSI, which led many states to focus even harder on improving the access to and quality of their land records.”
Talking about the importance of data-driven research, the NLPI Team Leader Professor Devendra B Gupta said, “Land is a critical asset for governments, industry, and citizens alike. It is important to have access to reliable data relating to land and property records. Many States in the past few years have made significant progress, especially in creating and updating digital data repositories for their land records. This pace has to accelerate, and we can help that process with discussions of the type we have had at ILF 2020.”
The ILF 2020 ended on Friday, November 27th with a concluding address by Dr K.P. Krishnan, IEPF Chair Professor at NCAER and former Additional Secretary, Department of Land Resources. Krishnan noted that “the ILF had touched upon all five aspects of land policy in India that I have considered important for quite some time. First, the question of the state vs the market in land policy and transactions; second, state capacity for handling land matters; third, technological advances and their impact; fourth, legal and regulatory changes in the field; and fifth, questions of Centre vs State in making progress on land policy and property rights. ILF 2020 has provided discussion space and data and evidence sharing in all these areas in some measure or the other.” Over 100 participants attended the virtual conference on all four days.