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Advocating for land tenure rights

By June 16, 2018February 20th, 2024No Comments

The case of Nagpur’s informal settlements

‘Hitavada’ reports on the housing situation in Nagpur, 10 December 2017

Land is the most valuable asset for people and communities world over. Land tenure, more commonly known as the right over land, is a key marker to improve social and human development. When land tenure is secure, growth and investment are facilitated; when absent it often leads to conflict and exclusion.

Within cities, in informal settlements or bastis (as they are commonly known) land tenure is mostly absent. Vulnerable populations live in fear of forced eviction and displacement and are constantly denied their space in the city, despite their valuable contributions to the local economy.

This blog looks at the land tenure situation in Nagpur, and developments in recent years.

The City

Nagpur, with a total population of 2.4 million, is the third largest city in Maharashtra. Its economy is mainly based on local commerce, mining and a concentrated industrial sector. Nagpur is also known for its research centres, universities and schools, with one of the highest literacy rates in India at 92.38%. As per the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), roughly 40 percent of the city’s population lives in 446 bastis, of which the government has notified 287 so far. Those living in notified bastis (which are recognised by the local government) have inhabited them for over 30 years.

Recent Housing Provisions

Over the last 5 years, government housing schemes such as the Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP) and the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS) have provided options for housing upgradation and rehabilitation. However, these housing schemes have not helped secure land tenure rights. Further, the people have opposed the idea of the SRS in Nagpur.

According to the residents of Nandanvan (the largest basti in Nagpur)

We have created the value for this land. Before 30 years, there was nothing but huge stones. We faced many problems when we first came to live here, especially during the monsoon season. At that time, no government helped us. With our own efforts, hard earned money and small savings we built our own houses over time.

The residents also argue that Nagpur bastis are not congested as we see in Mumbai.

People’s Response

Not surprisingly then, no one has wanted to move to the 300 sq ft flats built by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) under the SRS scheme inNagpur. Built in distant locations and far from their livelihood activities these buildings do not cater to people’s needs. Despite the formation of the SRA, almost no progress has been seen in Nagpur, and its activities are considered a failure. On the other hand, a few basti residents opted for developing pucca houses under the BSUP scheme. Years later, people are only owners of the structures and not the land. This makes them vulnerable to displacement at any point of time.

The Long Struggle for Tenure Security

The first Government Resolution (GR) passed by the Urban Development Department of Maharashtra related to land tenure for bastis in Nagpur was passed in 2002. As per this GR households were eligible to receive pattas or land tenure if their names appeared on the voter’s list on or before 01/01/1995. However, to get the pattas the informal settlement residents had to form a co-operative society, with the tenure rights held by the society — a mandatory requirement. The Shehar Vikas Manch (SVM), a city development forum which actively works on housing and urban issues at the local level, demanded that tenure rights should be given on an individual basis. However, there was no implementation in spite of the constant follow up by the people.

Over the years, this demand was raised during the Nagpur Assembly to remind the Government of Maharashtra to fulfill the demand for land tenure rights. The continuous movement led to two more GRs (dated 16 July 2016 and 24 August 2016) for informal settlements in Nagpur. The GR of August 2016 was applicable only for bastis on land under the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT). Bastis on NIT land were offered tenure rights for 30 years on a joint-ownership structure (with the husband and wife as co-owners), with the first 500 sq.ft provided free for SCs/STs/OBC (Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Other Backward Classes) in Nagpur and other cities of Maharashtra except Mumbai, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. This would help resident’s access assistance for housing upgradation under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) — which envisions provisioning of housing for all in India by 2022 — its upgradation component dependent on land being in the name of the owner.

Capacity building workshops and training initiatives with community leaders on land tenure rights

As a result 52 informal settlements on NIT land were eligible for land tenure rights. An application campaign was launched by YUVA in association with SVM that reached out to zonal offices, NIT and NMC offices asking officials to implement the GR and start the process of providing land tenure rights. These applications were submitted en masse to further pressurise the NIT. YUVA–SVM conducted numerous Mohalla Sabhas, monthly meetings, capacity building workshops, and organised a Convention on Land Tenure Rights (attended by over 500 people) to create mass awareness and educate the community on land tenure rights.

Convention on Land Tenure Rights, December 2017

A Step Forward

In the run up to the 2017 municipal elections, the issue of land tenure was brought fore in public discussions once again. People participated in campaigns led by YUVA–SVM and voiced their demands for universal land tenure across slums. Residents of informal settlements realised that if they failed to take this demand forward this time, the process of getting tenure rights would be delayed once again.

On 26 November 2016 (Constitution Day), a people’s movement led by SVM at Hyderabad House (the Chief Minister’s office) demanded implementation of the GR and was widely covered by the local media. As a result, on 1 January 2017 the NIT began the distribution of land tenure certificates. This was a victory in the people’s movement! Due to regular intervention and follow up with the civic officials and thanks to media support, the topic was trending in the city news. In this way the process of ownership titles kicked off. During the distribution ceremony on 1 January 2017, over 50 families received land tenure certificates and around 3,000 other residents of East-Nagpur were expected to get land tenure rights. At this ceremony, a demand letter was also handed to the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, in person, demanding for the patta provision for all slums of Nagpur.

This was closely followed by a positive initiative — the 3 January 2017 GR which extended land tenure to all the bastis. The GR also stated that bastis located on government-owned land (such as those under the NMC, Collector of the Maharashtra Government, and NIT) will be given land tenure rights by the respective authorities.

Initiatives like this can be replicated in other states, but will require stronger advocacy at the local level. However, certain terms and conditions attached to land tenure rights — such as after getting the tenure rights basti residents have to form a co-operative society within two years (which is not an easy exercise) and house owners have to pay ground rent (which shall be payable on ready reckoner rates mentioned in the 24 August 2016 GR, and these rates differ as per the location of the slums) — may pose challenges to implementation.

It has taken over 14 years for land tenure for bastis in Nagpur to come about, with the efforts of a people-led movement. Given all the recent developments, however, it remains to be seen when the Government of Maharashtra would take forward the implementation of this resolution, and set a tone for secure land rights and inclusion of the urban poor in the formal housing market.

Nitin Meshram, Project Associate

This blog is the first of a two-part series on the struggle for land tenure rights in Nagpur. The second part can be read here.

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