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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library

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‘On the Question of Land: New realities, severe urgencies’,16 July, 2014.

Abstract:

Questions on land are arguably the most important ones facing India. At independence, land reform and redistribution were high on the legislative and policy agenda. Now the critical issues are very different, namely: price, productivity, and acquisition. At the core is the reality of extreme land shortage and fragmentation, leading to extraordinary demand, conflict, and criminality. Land prices in India, both urban and rural, are the highest in the world, having increased at least five-fold in the last decade. Agricultural productivity is among the lowest, making farming increasingly unviable for many, leading to what is being called an “agrarian crisis”. The demand for land for new uses (urban/industry/infrastructure) is rising rapidly at the same time that land is increasingly seen as the most important asset (by agriculturalists, the growing middle class, investors, the political class, and criminals). There is a severe and growing imbalance between demand and supply. Powerful interests gain from this imbalance and the resulting stratospheric prices, and the urban economy is now hooked on these prices. A new law to make acquisition more just is likely to exacerbate the price crisis even further. There is an urgent need for level-headed analysis, unbiased by ideology or short term self-interest, based on a clear understanding of these new realities of India’s land situation. This talk is a step in that direction.

Speaker:

Questions on land are arguably the most important ones facing India. At independence, land reform and redistribution were high on the legislative and policy agenda. Now the critical issues are very different, namely: price, productivity, and acquisition. At the core is the reality of extreme land shortage and fragmentation, leading to extraordinary demand, conflict, and criminality. Land prices in India, both urban and rural, are the highest in the world, having increased at least five-fold in the last decade. Agricultural productivity is among the lowest, making farming increasingly unviable for many, leading to what is being called an “agrarian crisis”. The demand for land for new uses (urban/industry/infrastructure) is rising rapidly at the same time that land is increasingly seen as the most important asset (by agriculturalists, the growing middle class, investors, the political class, and criminals). There is a severe and growing imbalance between demand and supply. Powerful interests gain from this imbalance and the resulting stratospheric prices, and the urban economy is now hooked on these prices. A new law to make acquisition more just is likely to exacerbate the price crisis even further. There is an urgent need for level-headed analysis, unbiased by ideology or short term self-interest, based on a clear understanding of these new realities of India’s land situation. This talk is a step in that direction.

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