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.


US energy secretary meets Saudi counterpart after OPEC cuts

Updated 10 December 2018
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US energy secretary meets Saudi counterpart after OPEC cuts

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister held talks Monday with US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, after the Kingdom and its allies defied US pressure to cut oil production in a bid to prop up prices.
They discussed the “state of the oil market” and energy cooperation between the two countries during a meeting in eastern Dhahran city, the minister, Khalid Al-Falih, said on Twitter.
Perry tweeted that he discussed the need for “open, free, and fair markets with the Saudis.”
OPEC members and 10 other oil producing nations, including Russia, on Friday agreed to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day from January in a bid to reverse recent falls in prices.
The decision came even as US President Donald Trump demanded that the cartel boost output in order to push prices down.
But Al-Falih shrugged off the pressure last week, saying “we don’t need permission from anyone to cut” production.
The US “is not in a position to tell us what to do,” he told reporters ahead of Friday’s OPEC meeting in Vienna.
Last week, for the first time in decades, the United States — which is not a member of OPEC — was a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products.
It was the latest sign of how the shale boom has lifted the US standing on global petroleum markets, prompting talk of “energy dominance” by Trump.
Perry’s visit to Dhahran came as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled state oil giant Aramco’s plan for a new energy megaproject in the area known as the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK).
The energy park is expected to attract an initial investment of $1.6 billion, Aramco said.