Urbanization triggers land disputes in Indian cities

An Indian farmer arranges watermelons for auction in Hyderabad. Rapid urbanization and opaque land ownership laws are fueling land disputes across the country. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Urbanization triggers land disputes in Indian cities

NEW DELHI: The rapid growth of Indian cities, combined with unclear land ownership, is increasingly triggering legal disputes, analysts said, while rights groups have reported violent evictions of poorer communities.
India’s urban population is set to grow by more than 400 million — more than the population of the US — to 814 million by 2050.
As land is sought for offices and homes, developers and officials face multiple ownership claims and unclear titles.
“We have very few records for urban lands, as they were not a priority before,” said Deepak Sanan, a senior adviser at the New Delhi-based National Council of Applied Economic Research.
“Land was only measured and recorded in the rural areas in the pre-colonial and colonial times, as this land was considered valuable and taxed.”
Many marginalized communities have been built on disputed land, and the advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network said some evictions have been violent and took place without proper consultation, consent, compensation or advance notice.
About 31 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population lives in cities and towns, according to census data. But analysts say the figure is based on a decades-old definition of urban areas, so the real number is close to 60 percent.
So-called peri-urban spaces have grown in the intersection of urban and rural areas, with lands once earmarked for agriculture being used for homes.
Meanwhile, India’s rank for registering urban properties fell to 154 from 138 on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index for 2018.
“We only have a presumptive titling system — it neither verifies that the seller or buyer is the indisputable owner, nor does it guarantee that the property is free from disputes,” Sanan said.
“So everything ends in litigation.”
Matters related to land and property make up about two-thirds of all civil cases in India, according to a study by legal advocacy group Daksh.
Land records are gradually being updated and digitized as India moves toward a conclusive land titling system. Several states are using blockchain technology to record land deals.
Rajasthan set up an independent authority to verify and guarantee land titles in its cities, the first state in the country to do so.
But other authorities remain focused on rural areas, said Frank Pichel, interim chief executive of the Washington DC-based Cadasta Foundation, which develops digital tools to document and analyze land and resource rights information.
“There is certainly a growing demand for mapping urban lands with the rising value of these lands and the potential for conflict. But, for now, the focus remains rural,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a land conference in Delhi.


EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

Updated 23 June 2018
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EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

  • Trump threatened to impose 20 percent tariff
  • Shares in carmakers slip on trade war fears

PARIS: The European Union will respond to any US move to raise tariffs on cars made in the bloc, a senior European Commission official said, the latest comments in an escalating trade row.
US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all imports of EU-assembled cars, a month after his administration launched an investigation into whether auto imports posed a national security threat.
“If they decide to raise their import tariffs, we’ll have no choice, again, but to react,” EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told French newspaper Le Monde.
“We don’t want to fight (over trade) in public via Twitter. We should end the escalation,” he said in the comments published on Saturday.
The European Autos Stocks Index fell on Friday after Trump’s tariff threat. Shares US carmakers Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. also dropped.
“If these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the US Build them here!” Trump tweeted.
The US Commerce Department has a deadline of February 2019 to investigate whether imports of automobiles and auto parts pose a risk to US national security.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday the department aimed to wrap up the probe by late July or August. The Commerce Department plans to hold two days of public comments in July on its investigation of auto imports.
Trump has repeatedly singled out German auto imports to the United States for criticism.
Trump told carmakers at a meeting in the White House on May 11 that he was planning to impose tariffs of 20 or 25 percent on some imported vehicles and sharply criticized Germany’s automotive trade surplus with the United States.
The United States currently imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars from the EU and a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks. The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on imported US cars.
The tariff proposal has drawn sharp condemnation from Republican lawmakers and business groups. A group representing major US and foreign automakers has said it is “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk.”
The US Chamber of Commerce said US auto production had doubled over the past decade, and said tariffs “would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war.”
German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG build vehicles at plants in the United States. BMW is one of South Carolina’s largest employers, with more than 9,000 workers in the state.
The United States in 2017 accounted for about 15 percent of worldwide Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand sales. It accounts for 5 percent of Volkswagen’s VW brand sales and 12 percent of its Audi brand sales.