90 pc of India?s land titles are disputed
Construction activities in most Indian cities normally require 25 to 40 multiple-authority clearances, each boasting a 'single window' system. Procedural delays, obsolete laws and opaque regulations lead to corruption, cost escalations and illegal construction.
In April 2005 the Bombay High Court, quoting a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, held that an "unauthorised construction, if it is illegal and cannot be compounded, has to be demolished." Since then, lower courts have refused to provide relief to violators. However, the Maharashtra Government's ordinance to save the illegal buildings of Ulhasnagar has encouraged illegal townships elsewhere in the country to push for a similar solution.
Existing municipal laws provide inadequate empowerment to local bodies, despite the path breaking 74th Amendment aimed at decentralising power and strengthening local democracy in urban areas. Ad hoc state-level amendments, unclear power sharing mandates and archaic legislations have undermined its implementation.
Deepening the crisis, improper land use changes from agricultural to residential and commercial purposes has resulted in proliferation of illegal and semi-legal habitations and speculative activity.
The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act (ULCRA) and its patchy implementation have skewed the urban land market. Failing in its objectives, ULCRA has locked vast urban tracts, inflated prices, exacerbated housing shortages and triggered litigations. Its repeal has the potential to facilitate release of 2.2 lakh hectares of frozen urban land.
A 2001 Mc Kinsey report says that removing land market barriers can contribute an additional 1 per cent to India's GDP growth rate. The report estimates that 90% of India's land titles are disputed.
Lal Dora, the line separating urban and rural land in Delhi, was last extended in 1983 creating 'urban villages' under MCD jurisdiction. This has created contradictions in law enforcement and led to exploitation by property developers.
Limits are placed on built-up floor space through by-laws. Uniformly applied by-laws fail to account for the needs of different sections of an urban area. City master plans that envisage generous expansion of the periphery often provide inadequately for land within existing settlement boundaries.
To prevent future confusion and misuse, sweeping legal and regulatory changes are required. Procedures should be made simple, swift and transparent to better manage our urban areas.