Cre­at­ing co­he­sion out of frag­men­ta­tion

Land pool­ing is an ef­fi­cient means of com­bin­ing smaller land hold­ings and de­vel­op­ing them into new ur­ban ar­eas

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Rohan Sharma

Land re­mains one of the most prized phys­i­cal as­sets; its nondi­min­ish­ing eco­nomic value in­creases man­i­fold when it or even its sur­round­ings are de­vel­oped. As cities grow and the need for ca­pac­ity build­ing in in­fra­struc­ture and pro­vid­ing land for eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties in­creases, gov­ern­ments have had to re­sort to ac­quir­ing land owned by private cit­i­zens.

Land ac­qui­si­tion has been a con­tentious pol­icy arena, as it largely falls under in­di­vid­ual states which have typ­i­cally fol­lowed the com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion route, with com­pen­sa­tion based on the land ref­er­ence rates de­ter­mined in each state and mu­nic­i­pal­ity by the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Th­ese ref­er­ence rates are in­vari­ably anoma­lous and largely delinked from mar­ket re­al­i­ties. In cer­tain cases, the state gov­ern­ments have auc­tioned such ac­quired land to private par­ties for much higher prices than the mea­gre com­pen­sa­tion paid to the orig­i­nal landown­ers.

In short, the eco­nomic ben­e­fits aris­ing from land have his­tor­i­cally been ap­pro­pri­ated by the gov­ern­ment, its agen­cies or private par­ties. The in­ter­ests of the orig­i­nal ti­tle-hold­ers have been marginalised. This murky sce­nario has prompted the gov­ern­ments to look at al­ter­nate meth­ods of sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ing land which al­low the landown­ers to part­ner in and ben­e­fit from the de­vel­op­ment process. En­ter the con­cept of ‘land pool­ing’.

Land pool­ing re­sults in eq­ui­table and ef­fi­cient land de­vel­op­ment. It is ac­tu­ally a means of read­just­ing un­even land dis­tri­bu­tion by bring­ing frag­mented land hold­ings to­gether to con­sti­tute a larger land par­cel. Con­se­quently, in­fra­struc­ture is de­vel­oped on

the land, and it is then re­turned to the orig­i­nal owner(s) after ap­ply­ing a for­mula. This for­mula com­pen­sates the author­ity or the en­tity which un­der­took the de­vel­op­ment for the in­fra­struc­ture and other pro­vided ser­vices by al­low­ing them to sell or re­tain a part of the orig­i­nal land.

Though seem­ingly com­pli­cated, this approach is ac­tu­ally a highly ef­fec­tive way of achiev­ing de­vel­op­ment while si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­mot­ing so­cial jus­tice. Land pool­ing in­volves par­tic­i­pa­tion of the na­tional and state gov­ern­ments for pol­icy for­mu­la­tion, no­ti­fi­ca­tions, ap­provals and cre­ation of op­er­a­tional norms. The lo­cal agency will re­ceive blan­ket as­sis­tance from var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, and is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a proper land val­u­a­tion mech­a­nism to en­cour­age the par­tic­i­pa­tion of landown­ers.

In this man­ner, land pool­ing cre­ates an ecosys­tem for planned de­vel­op­ment through in­fras­truc­tural projects sup­port­ing ur­ban

area growth, and is an ef­fi­cient means of com­bin­ing smaller, ir­reg­u­lar land hold­ings into larger, de­vel­oped wholes which can serve as new ur­ban ar­eas. By turn­ing landown­ers into stake­hold­ers in land de­vel­op­ment through un­lock­ing of their land value and pass­ing on the ma­jor­ity of the ben­e­fits to them, the state cre­ates a model of so­cial em­pow­er­ment and growth while en­sur­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Fi­nally, the land pool­ing method also leads to a ro­bust way to cre­ate and main­tain land ti­tle ownership records. This, in turn, cre­ates a trans­par­ent reg­istry sys­tem, which will en­hance land rev­enues for the lo­cal bod­ies to un­der­take more projects.

A more con­struc­tive approach to solv­ing In­dia’s land ac­qui­si­tion co­nun­drum would be: “Don’t buy land, pool it — the de­vel­oped whole makes more sense than the sum of its frag­mented parts.”

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