Fears of los­ing home, land plague one in four In­di­ans

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

About a quar­ter of home­own­ers in In­dia, and nearly one in five ru­ral landown­ers, fear los­ing their prop­erty, in most cases be­cause they do not have doc­u­ments to prove own­er­ship, ac­cord­ing to a new poll. The sur­vey, launched by US polling firm Gallup in Lon­don yes­ter­day, set out to test how se­cure peo­ple feel about their homes and land. Con­ducted over the past six months, the In­dian sur­vey is the first of a world­wide, two-year re­search project look­ing at per­cep­tions of prop­erty own­er­ship and se­cu­rity between dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties.

The poll found six in 10 said they owned their home, while a third said they lived in a home owned by a fam­ily mem­ber. De­spite the high in­ci­dence of own­er­ship, the In­dian sur­vey showed that in­se­cu­rity of prop­erty rights is wide­spread, with about one in four own­ers and nearly half of all renters ex­press­ing worry about los­ing their home. Mat­ters re­lated to land and prop­erty make up about two-thirds of all civil cases in In­dia, where tus­sles over own­er­ship can de­lay prop­erty deals and lead to lengthy court bat­tles.

In­se­cure land rights leave the ur­ban poor par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble as they are of­ten un­aware of the rights they do have, can­not af­ford lawyers and live in fear of be­ing evicted. The study re­vealed that those who were wor­ried about own­er­ship also re­ported a higher in­ci­dence of health prob­lems, in­clud­ing say­ing they some­times did not have enough food. Re­spon­dents said the main rea­son for their in­se­cu­rity was the lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion, in­clud­ing land ti­tles, fol­lowed by dis­agree­ments with fam­ily mem­bers over prop­erty own­er­ship.

In­dia is in the throes of dra­matic de­mo­graphic and cul­tural change with the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion ex­pected to grow from 377 mil­lion in 2016 to nearly 600 mil­lion by 2030. In­se­cure prop­erty rights, say an­a­lysts, can threaten to un­der­mine the ben­e­fits of In­dia’s rapid ur­ban­iza­tion. A lack of for­mal doc­u­men­ta­tion prov­ing own­er­ship can block ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices such as san­i­ta­tion, wa­ter and elec­tric­ity and limit ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices such as rais­ing credit against a home or farm for in­vest­ment, the re­port said.

In the de­vel­op­ing world, it can also limit ac­cess to state help such as food or fer­til­izer sub­si­dies and ser­vices pro­vided by mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments such as san­i­ta­tion and wa­ter. In In­dia, more than 14,000 men and women, both own­ers and ten­ants in cities and vil­lages, were in­ter­viewed face-to-face. The project cov­ered 14 In­dian states, in­clud­ing Odisha, Pun­jab, Ra­jasthan and West Ben­gal. Nine other coun­tries will be polled over the next year to build up a de­fin­i­tive picture of how dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties re­late to - and feel about - land and prop­erty own­er­ship.

The re­port showed a clear gen­der gap with women less likely than men to own their land or home. But men and women were equally likely to be wor­ried about los­ing their home or land. Ten­ants were twice as likely as own­ers to worry about los­ing their homes, with land­lords - of­ten afraid of per­ma­nently los­ing pos­ses­sion of their homes - pre­fer­ring short term con­tracts. And while about nine out of 10 re­spon­dents lived in a home owned by them­selves or by a fam­ily mem­ber, those who owned their own prop­erty were more likely to ex­press worry about los­ing the home than those who lived with other fam­ily mem­bers. Thirty per­cent of city res­i­dents ex­pressed in­se­cu­rity, com­pared to 26 per­cent of their ru­ral coun­ter­parts.

Own­ers were more likely to visit gov­ern­ment of­fices to up­date their records, al­though only half had done so in the past. Of these, own­ers of agri­cul­tural land were far more likely to up­date land records than those who owned res­i­den­tial land. If peo­ple are will­ing to en­gage with state au­thor­i­ties on own­er­ship, there are potential res­o­lu­tions to the prob­lem of in­se­cu­rity, said the re­port com­mis­sioned by Land Al­liance, a Wash­ing­ton-based think tank. “...Gov­ern­ment ef­forts to make it eas­ier, and af­ford­able, for peo­ple to reg­is­ter or up­date prop­erty doc­u­men­ta­tion at lo­cal lev­els could have a large im­pact on re­duc­ing peo­ple’s worry about their prop­erty rights,” it said. “This would have ben­e­fits for pri­vate cit­i­zens and the econ­omy as a whole.” — Reuters

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