Renu Pokharna

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

‘Unorganised construction workers in state excluded from Central benefits’

In Corruption, Gujarat, Livelihood on May 31, 2010 at 7:45 am

A Large number of construction workers in the unorganised sector in Gujarat are excluded from the multiple benefits of a Central legislation. On Saturday, Varesh Sinha, Principal Secretary, state Labour and Employment Department, asked a gathering of academicians, officials and Trade Union(TU) leaders to try and find a solution to this.

“The construction sector is the biggest employer, but the workers are the most neglected. First, the unions had the power to register them, but somehow that was withdrawn. A lot of NGOs and unions come to me regarding this,” Sinha said in a speech at the Workshop on Labour Laws in 21st Century, organised by the Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute.

He was referring to two laws passed by Parliament in 1996 — Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condiution of Service) Act, and the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act. Under these laws, construction workers are promised a slew of benefits ranging from accidents, health, maternity benefits to pensions, free education for children and housing loans.

But they need to be registered to avail these benefits — the requirement being a proof of 90 days’ work with an employer, which most workers do not have.

In Gujarat, a notification dated August 21, 2008 adopted the Centre’s provision that the proof of work certificate may be issued by registered unions, government, panchayat or district level officials in case the employer has not done so. According to figures from the welfare board, roughly 8,000 workers were registered between August and December 2008. On December 31, 2008 another notification was passed, disallowing registered unions from issuing proof of work certificates. The number of workers registered after that dropped to about 500 per month.

Supreme Court Justice V R Krishna Iyer, who headed the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCCCL), filed a writ petition regarding this notification, following which the SC passed an interim order on January 18, 2010. It said: “Each state government shall appoint Registering Officers and set up centres in each district to receive and register the applications and issue receipts for the same. Registered TUs, Legal Service authorities and NGOs are to be encouraged to assist the workers to submit the applications.”

Iyer said: “Gujarat is registering them through builders, who may have vested interests. TUs should be allowed, as they can understand the plight of the workers.”

The issue of registration has been a long-drawn issue in Gujarat. On November 23, 2009 the Labour Department rejected the documents of 196 workers in Dahod saying their proof of work certificates were not issued by builders.

Mar 21, 2010.  Indian Express

To avoid delays in projects, Plan panel sets targets for core sector ministries

In Bureaucratic Delays, Corruption, Poverty Eradication, Red Tape on May 31, 2010 at 7:44 am

In a departure from its business-as-usual approach, UPA-II is set to ensure accountability of its ministers manning core sector ministries. The Manmohan Singh government has now finalised plans to come out with the performance of these ministries.

At the government’s behest, the Planning Commission has completed a comprehensive exercise wherein it has finalised the annual targets for infrastructure ministries like power, railways, road transport and aviation. To be unveiled by the Panel’s deputy chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on Monday, the blueprint vetted by the Prime Minister will have assigned targets for the year for these ministries. The blueprint will also contain financial arrangements chalked out and will mandate the ministries to furnish the Plan panel with its performance report every quarter.

The government’s concern is understandable, as progress in almost all sectors has witnessed a slowing down. For example, power generation has has fallen below target by 2.3 per cent (17.96 billion units) between now and April 2009. Similarly, the road sector has failed to keep pace and has slowed down by 15.5 per cent (491.06 km), while the Railways’ revenue earnings from goods traffic has depleted by 0.2 per cent, according to an official note on the core sectors.

Similarly, coal production has declined from the targeted 431.27 MT to 403 MT in the last fiscal. Also, steel production was 975 MT against a targeted 1,009 MT in the same period — indicating a decline of over 3 per cent. Power production too witnessed a dismal scenario, with the country registering electricity production of 771.55 billion units against a targeted production of 789.51 BU, according to the note.

“The arrangement is expected to ensure that all avoidable delays in the execution of infrastructure projects would be taken care of before they become endemic problems,” a plan panel source said. To make this exercise a potential challenge to both politicians and public officials manning these ministry, the Commission has been entrusted with the responsibility to consider the review reports to the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI). The model is expected to detect where faults lay and ensure timely corrections as well as identifying the problem. The government has already put flagship programmes under constant monitoring and more direct intervention has been resorted to.

May 15, 2010. Indian Express

Should every child receive a bank account at birth?

In Microfinance, Poverty Eradication on May 31, 2010 at 7:42 am

YOU come into the world with nothing, the saying goes. A new campaign proposes to change that by giving every newborn child in the world an online bank account with $100 in it. The aim of the FinancialAccess@Birth (FAB) campaign is to do something about the fact that half the world’s population has no access to mainstream financial services. This is a huge handicap, exposing people who are typically already on the poverty line to risks that wealthier folk can manage through savings or insurance, and leaving them to pay unregistered moneylenders through the nose.

The campaign is the brainchild of Bhagwan Chowdhry, a finance professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is starting to attract some prominent supporters, including Peter Singer, a well-known philosopher, and Vijay Mahajan, an Indian social entrepreneur.

FAB dovetails with another big idea: an effort being led by Nandan Nilekani, an outsourcing tycoon turned government minister, to provide every Indian with a legal proof of identity in the form of an electronic smart card. The prospect of a bank account with $100 in it—this initial amount would be untouchable until the child’s 16th birthday—would encourage parents to register their newborn babies. The account could then be used by governments or charities to make direct payments, to fund things like the child’s education or health care.

Opening accounts for babies has been tried before, but only in rich countries such as Britain, Canada and South Korea, where its potential impact is far smaller. Mr Chowdhry expects the parents of the richest 35m children born each year voluntarily to forgo the free money, which would leave accounts for the other 100m newborns born each year to be funded. The campaign proposes that national governments each donate one-fiftieth of one percent of GDP to cover the estimated $10 billion annual cost.

That is still a tough sell in today’s economic climate: one issue to be thrashed out is whether the accounts have to be funded at birth, or whether the money needs to arrive only when the child turns 16. But governments are not the only potential donors. The idea sounds perfect for banks, which would gain a potentially lucrative army of future customers and could polish up their battered images at the same time.

Mar 4, 2010. Indian Express

Left to their own resources

In Energy on May 31, 2010 at 7:40 am

What impact could the Supreme Court judgment on the RIL-RNRL case have on the institution of market-determined pricing for natural resources such as gas and oil? Reform is needed in these critical sectors. The Petroleum Minister Murli Deora asserted that the Supreme Court had now given the Centre the right to “decide the price of gas”. At present the government does not decide the price of gas but merely approves a price that is discovered after an open market bidding process. So it might be dangerous for the government to interpret the judgment in the way Murli Deora and the petroleum secretary have done at the first instance.

An unfettered right accorded to the government to decide any price will surely take us back to the control era where arbitrary rent seeking was rampant. Besides, a reasonable market-determined price will be absolutely essential to ensure that more investments, domestic and foreign, flow in to aid further gas discovery in India . As it is, the RIL-RNRL dispute these past few years has ensured that not many deep-sea exploration companies are coming forward to invest in India. The KG basin is not yet fully exploited. For that to happen India will have to further buttress its institutions which help strengthen the market-determined pricing system. Therefore, the government’s discretion to decide pricing must be minimised. In fact this is the core issue which has dogged the allocation of spectrum or coal in the recent past.The government used arbitrary methods to allocate spectrum and that resulted in a spate of disputes and allegations of corruption. The latest auction of the 3G spectrum has brought some sanity to the process simply because it is purely market-

determined. Being market determined has also helped the government garner revenues upward of Rs.40,000 crore through spectrum auction. In fact, all the ills and allegations of corruption visiting 2G

spectrum lwas precisely because the government decided to determine pricing arbitrarily.

The same analogy holds for gas. A market determined price regime will get government higher revenues which it can use for spending on other socially useful schemes. The Supreme Court suggested the government has the unfettered right to determine the price of a national resource. True, as per the Constitution the government has a sovereign right over all national assets. But all governments are expected to put in place mechanisms to rationally discover the market price of scarce resources. This is more relevant for India where a consistent growth boom has resulted in a massive scramble for resources by capitalists. The finance capital boom has additionally fuelled a massive valuation game based on who gets how much resources. The near collapse in the stock price of RNRL on Friday is symptomatic of this phenomenon. RNRL valuation was clearly built on the expectation that the company will get gas at a certain price. The shareholders bought into the idea despite the initial prospectus mentioning as a risk

factor the fact that receipt of gas at a certain price was subject to

government approval.

The scramble for resources will only intensify among India’s big businesses as we go along. The Tata group admitting that it has been lobbying for a level playing field is directly in the context of getting its share of national resources to drive various businesses.

So it is the government’s duty now to get its act together and put in place a flawless system to allocate resources such as gas, spectrum, coal and other rare metals in a manner that does not make India look like some banana republic. In the past, some actions of the government have indeed created grave doubts as to whether India well ever get a transparent regulatory system which creates a genuine level playing field. Sadly, the lack of such a fair and transparent mechanism is partly because of the nature of polity we have where natural resources have become a major source of political funding during elections. The mega mining scam involving the Reddys in Karnataka is a case in point.

The present battle between the Ambanis over gas has also got exacerbated because of the arbitrary and non-transparent evolution of policy these past few years. Murli Deora, therefore, must not gloat at the fact that the government has been accorded an unfettered sovereign right over its national assets. A cursory reading of the Constitution would tell you that the state, even in the most robust capitalist societies, has an unfettered sovereign right over natural resources. We needed the Supreme Court to bring this truism to us simply because of the mess various state and non-state actors have created over the years through excessive greed and bitter legal disputes. In fact, an ideal state is supposed to create orderly and fair institutions to ensure a smooth functioning of capitalism.

In India such maturity is not visible now because the capitalist bourgeoisie are busy trying to outdo each other in the attempt to grab scarce resources. The state actors are part of this game and must not act holier than thou, as they are doing after the Supreme Court order on KG gas. The West also saw a similar scamble for resources in the initial stages of its capitalist development. In the early 1900s J.P. Morgan controlled over 60 per cent of all market capitalisation on the stock exchanges because he owned all steel and railroad companies. A similar debate over resource monopoly later led to a forced breaking of J.P. Morgan’s empire by the US government. So at times the state appears to collaborate with rampant resource exploitation by monopoly businesses but at some later stage it also violently strikes back to break such monopolies. We must learn from the Western experience and avoid such big disruptions that have historically marked the development of capitalism. To achieve this would require an orderly rule-based framework for capitalist growth. The sooner India’s political class understands this, the better.

The writer is managing editor, ‘The Financial Express’

May 8, 2010. Indian Express

Registration of workers: Gujarat lags behind several states

In Gujarat, Livelihood on May 31, 2010 at 7:38 am

Gujarat lags behind several states in the implementation of a Central legislation meant to benefit the unorganised construction workers, it has been learnt.

A two-day “National Workshop on Safety, Health and Welfare Measures of Construction Workers” was held at the Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute, Ahmedabad last week, and hosted about 50 delegates from across the country, including labour union leaders, academicians and state government officials.

The workshop mainly focussed on The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996, which provides unorganised construction workers health and maternity benefits, educational assistance for children, pension funds, accident benefits, and funeral assistance.

One of the major areas Gujarat lags behind is the registration of workers — a prerequisite for availing any benefit under the Central legislation.

Naresh Kumar, the Assistant Labour Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh told The Indian Express that about eight lakh construction workers are registered with the welfare board in that state. In contrast, only about 40,000 workers are registered with the board in Gujarat. Ironically, the board in Gujarat was constituted in 2004, three years prior to Andhra Pradesh’s.

Another example is the contrast with the board in Karnataka. According to statistics provided by Gurudas M Bhatt, CEO and Secretary of the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, 95,542 workers have been registered so far, despite the fact that the board in Gujarat is two years older than Karnataka’s.

Bhatt said the board has developed software for registration of workers, and this is shared with the non-government bodies like labour unions that have been authorised to register workers.

“This way, the worker does not need to run from one government office to another. He can just go to the union office and register from there,” he said.

Sources present at the workshop said Varesh Sinha, Principal Secretary of Gujarat’s Labour and Employment Department, was present throughout on both days.

“He seemed very open towards adopting some of the recommendations,” sources said, adding that Sinha has only recently taken charge of the department.

Mar 30, 2010. Indian Express

‘Naxal-affected people want education for their children’

In Education, Naxalism on May 31, 2010 at 7:26 am

The people of the Naxal-affected areas in Chhattisgarh want education for their children and there is a need to provide them the same for the development of the region, Professor Anil Gupta from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad said on Tuesday.

Gupta, also the co-ordinator of SRISTI (Society for Research & Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies & Institutions) was addressing a press conference here after returning from the organisation’s bi-annual event known as ‘Shodh Yatra’.

SRISTI promotes grassroots innovators to use them in the larger developmental issues.

Gupta and 34 others spent seven days and covered 175 kilometres on foot in Naravanpur district of Chhattisgarh between May 15 and 17, to look for traditional innovations of the people from the interior villages.

A large portion of Narayanpur district is under the direct control of Naxals. He said a large number of people in the region are poor but want education for their children. The government’s non-cooperation in building schools destroyed by the Naxals in their villages is one of their major grievances, he said.

He said the area is rich in bio-diversity and the locals have wonderful knowledge on herbs to cure various illnesses. “But the problem is that most of these herbs are being sold as raw material. Instead, there should be value-addition to these herbs so that big companies are attracted for investment,” he said.

Gupta also spoke about a variety of development issues in the region, adding that SRISTI has apprised the state and Centre about these. He added: “During the yatra, we came to know some of the most unique innovations in practice to solve daily problems like protecting mud walls from rain. Besides, the houses of the tribals are exceptionally clean and the women showed significant awareness and interest in developmental issues.”

He said the 35-member team stayed in the villages for seven days without protection. “We did not find any problem there. In fact, the villagers provided us with food and other facilities. We did not come across any Naxalite during the yatra. We did not have any problem during the week-long stay,” said Ramesh Patel, one of the participants of the yatra and secretary of SRISTI. He added that the team shared its knowledge gathered from other ‘Shodh Yatras’ with the people of Narayanpur district.

May 26, 2010. Indian Express

Sincerely, Mayawati: Letters from a CM to the PM

In Young Turks on May 31, 2010 at 7:23 am

Despite her prickly relationship with the Centre, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati believes in never putting the lid on dialogue. In the 36 months since coming to power in May 2007, she has written 100 letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, averaging one every eleventh day.

Which would make her, in all likelihood, not just the PM’s most prolific correspondent among chief ministers, but possibly among all major leaders in the country.

In her letters, Mayawati has put forward her demands and requests for UP, and her views on a range of issues. The last letter she wrote, her hundredth, on May 15, contained her views on the inclusion of caste in the census, sources in the Chief Minister’s office said.

“Successive governments at the Centre deliberately avoided a caste-based census in order to deprive the biggest section of the country’s population of their constitutional rights,” the CM wrote, according to a release issued by the state government.

Mayawati begins her communications to the PM with the salutation “Aadarniya Pradhan Mantriji”, and signs off with “Bhavadiya, Mayawati”. In her first letter, written on May 21, 2007, a week after she took charge in Lucknow, the CM expressed regret for not being able to attend a party hosted by the PM on the completion of three years of the UPA-I government.

Subsequently, over the next three years, she raised issues ranging from a Bharat Ratna for BSP founder Kanshi Ram (in January 2008) to piracy off the coast of Somalia (in February 2009).

In May 2009, Mayawati wrote to the PM about the murder of Dera Sach Khand leader Sant Ramanand in Vienna, and four months later, expressed concern over the security of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

Earlier, in October 2008, she had raised the issue of attacks on north Indians in Maharashtra, and in February that year, asked the PM to consider removing Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna for an alleged remark to the effect that north Indians take pride in breaking the law.

In an earlier letter, written in December 2007, Mayawati put forth her views on reservation for the Mochi community in the SC category in Gujarat. She wrote at least four letters expressing concern over the lack of development in Bundelkhand; at other times, she discussed the Right To Education Act, the Justice Dinakaran episode and the women’s reservation Bill.

Her letter on Dinakaran, written on December 19, 2009, began, “Main aapko yeh patra ek mahatwapoorn prakaran ke sambandh mein likh rahi hoon (I am writing to you about a very important matter)”, and went on to request the PM to give an opportunity to Dinakaran to present his side of the story as per the principle of natural justice (“nyaya ka naisargik siddhant”).

In her eight months in power in 2007, Mayawati wrote 14 letters to the PM. In 2008, she was more prolific, writing 41 letters. In 2009, despite being busy with the Lok Sabha elections, she found time to write to the PM 36 times.

Sources close to Mayawati said she writes all important letters personally. “All letters that have a political tone are written personally by her. Since she alone decides her party’s agenda, the topics she writes on are also entirely of her own choosing,” said a top source.

A BSP leader the CM’s letters would stand as a “historical record” for the party. “This is necessary for future generations to know the BSP’s views on all these issues,” said the leader.

May 26, 2010. Indian Express


Moonshine or the Kids?

In Poverty Eradication on May 31, 2010 at 7:15 am

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous:

It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.

That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey. Here in this Congolese village of Mont-Belo, we met a bright fourth grader, Jovali Obamza, who is about to be expelled from school because his family is three months behind in paying fees. (In theory, public school is free in the Congo Republic. In fact, every single school we visited charges fees.)

We asked to see Jovali’s parents. The dad, Georges Obamza, who weaves straw stools that he sells for $1 each, is unmistakably very poor. He said that the family is eight months behind on its $6-a-month rent and is in danger of being evicted, with nowhere to go.

The Obamzas have no mosquito net, even though they have already lost two of their eight children to malaria. They say they just can’t afford the $6 cost of a net. Nor can they afford the $2.50-a-month tuition for each of their three school-age kids.

“It’s hard to get the money to send the kids to school,” Mr. Obamza explained, a bit embarrassed.

But Mr. Obamza and his wife, Valerie, do have cellphones and say they spend a combined $10 a month on call time.

In addition, Mr. Obamza goes drinking several times a week at a village bar, spending about $1 an evening on moonshine. By his calculation, that adds up to about $12 a month — almost as much as the family rent and school fees combined.

I asked Mr. Obamza why he prioritizes alcohol over educating his kids. He looked pained.

Other villagers said that Mr. Obamza drinks less than the average man in the village (women drink far less). Many other men drink every evening, they said, and also spend money on cigarettes.

“If possible, I drink every day,” Fulbert Mfouna, a 43-year-old whose children have also had to drop out or repeat grades for lack of school fees, said forthrightly. His eldest son, Jude, is still in first grade after repeating for five years because of nonpayment of fees. Meanwhile, Mr. Mfouna acknowledged spending $2 a day on alcohol and cigarettes.

Traditionally, a young man here might have paid his wife’s family a “bride price” of a pair of goats. Now the “bride price” starts with oversized jugs of wine and two bottles of whiskey.

Two M.I.T. economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, found that the world’s poor typically spend about 2 percent of their income educating their children, and often larger percentages on alcohol and tobacco: 4 percent in rural Papua New Guinea, 6 percent in Indonesia, 8 percent in Mexico. The indigent also spend significant sums on soft drinks, prostitution and extravagant festivals.

Look, I don’t want to be an unctuous party-pooper. But I’ve seen too many children dying of malaria for want of a bed net that the father tells me is unaffordable, even as he spends larger sums on liquor. If we want Mr. Obamza’s children to get an education and sleep under a bed net — well, the simplest option is for their dad to spend fewer evenings in the bar.

Because there’s mounting evidence that mothers are more likely than fathers to spend money educating their kids, one solution is to give women more control over purse strings and more legal title to assets. Some aid groups and U.N. agencies are working on that.

Another approach is microsavings, helping poor people save money when banks aren’t interested in them. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the most powerful part of microfinance isn’t microlending but microsavings.

Microsavings programs, organized by CARE and other organizations, work to turn a consumption culture into a savings culture. The programs often keep household savings in the women’s names, to give mothers more say in spending decisions, and I’ve seen them work in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Well-meaning humanitarians sometimes burnish suffering to make it seem more virtuous and noble than it often is. If we’re going to make more progress, and get kids like the Obamza children in school and under bed nets, we need to look unflinchingly at uncomfortable truths — and then try to redirect the family money now spent on wine and prostitution.

May 22, 2010. The New York Times

No rashness on rations

In Corruption, PDS, Red Tape on May 31, 2010 at 7:12 am

The Food Security scheme is by far the most important and most expensive of the schemes currently under consideration. When fully implemented, covering the families below the poverty line (BPL) as well as those above, it may cover nearly 50 per cent of India’s population.

There have been several recent studies and investigations into the functioning of the public distribution scheme, or PDS; all of them concluded with extremely negative disclosures. The Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore studied 12 states over three years. They found that the “inclusion error”, people getting cards they do not deserve, was the highest at 75 per cent in Mizoram and Kerala, 50 to 60 per cent in Assam, Delhi and Maharashtra and about 50 per cent in Rajasthan and Bihar. In the “exclusion error” category, in which genuine BPL families went without benefits, there was a high percentage in Jharkhand, Kerala, MP and Uttarakhand.

Nothing has exposed the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the PDS as has the report of the Central Vigilance Committee appointed by the Supreme Court. The CVC was headed by Justice Wadhwa, a retired SC judge; it described the PDS as “one of the most corrupt sectors”, and that corruption was all-pervasive along the entire chain. Most of the department’s functionaries are described as “callous and corrupt”. The root cause of the failure of this scheme: political interference, and a combination of dishonest Fair Price Shop owners, treacherous transporters as well as unscrupulous millers. In Bihar, the committee visited many villages and towns; the general complaint was that during the last year, they got foodgrains only for 2-3 months. There was large-scale diversion of foodgrains supplied to the PDS: through black marketing by Fair Price Shop dealers, a nexus between them and department officials, improper record-keeping, false register entries and, above all, political influence and interference.

The CBI is presently investigating a case of extensive abuse of the PDS in UP during 2003-2005. A Special Task Force was appointed by the state government which found that there was criminal conspiracy of officers from various agencies, departments, district administration, as well as officials of the railways, the Food Corporation of India, Central Warehousing Corporation and different public sector banks. It is a devastating charge against practically every administrative wing. Foodgrains were exported to other states and countries with the connivance of the railways and hence there were international and inter-state ramifications. The CBI took up the investigation and registered 9 cases against 150 officers including more than a dozen PDS officers, employees and contractors. The investigations continue, and because of the scam’s vast dimensions, may take considerable time.

I describe this in detail to show how deep is the malaise. The same may be the story in several other states.

It is the responsibility of the Central government to put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure that those for whom the grain is intended, get it. Cash payments should be a definite no. They would only facilitate swindling by officials. So-called smart cards might not answer either: we have seen how NREGS job cards have been manipulated by intermediaries and corrupt government officials.

There are several Central schemes which are being implemented in cooperation with the states. The NREGS and the PDS, under the Food Security Act, are the most important of them. The total amount of money spent by the Centre through the states with the help of the state machinery, which is the implementing agency, is colossal. The Planning Commission reportedly found that the amount spent on various schemes in the states varies from 26 per cent to 87 per cent, but on an average, it was hovering around 40 to 50 per cent. In the tribal district of Sonbhadra in UP, bordering MP, the Planning Commission team discovered not one teacher in its nearly 200 schools.

The Planning Commission and the finance ministry should, therefore, put in place an effective monitoring mechanism which should go into the distribution system down the line, right up to the Fair Price Shops in the villages. If the World Bank can have a Country Director in each country to monitor the spending of the money it lends, the Centre has even more direct responsibility to see that huge amounts of money sanctioned under various schemes, particularly the PDS, are implemented properly. A certain percentage of the total allocation of the funds could be justifiably earmarked for the monitoring mechanism. The details of the monitoring mechanism should be worked out elaborately to ensure that not only the PDS scheme but the various other schemes of Bharat Nirman work as satisfactorily as possible.

The writer retired as Director, Intelligence Bureau. He has served as governor in Sikkim, West Bengal and UP

May 27, 2010. Indian Express

Govt drafts a new law to guarantee land titles

In Property Rights on May 31, 2010 at 7:05 am

New Delhi To bring uniformity across the country and replace the existing deeds system fraught with litigation due to inaccuracies in property records, the Rural Development Ministry has drafted a model law to usher in a system of conclusive property titles with title guarantees through registration of immovable properties.

The Department of Land Resources under the Ministry has drafted The Land Titling Bill, 2010 that provides for establishment and management of a system of conclusive property titles with title guarantees and indemnification against losses due to inaccuracies in property titles, through registration of immovable properties.

“We have prepared the draft Land Titling Bill, 2010 and have invited public comments. We will soon be consulting state governments for their comments on the draft Bill. We will also be organising a workshop with state authorities to create awareness about the Land Titling system,” Rita Sinha, Secretary, Department of Land Resources, told The Indian Express.

The system envisaged under the Bill is currently operational in countries like England, Australia and New Zealand. It hopes to replace the existing deeds system under which the government does not give any title to any individual or organisation.

In fact, in the deeds system, all titles of immovable property are “presumed titles”, where title to property is claimed by people through diverse legally recognisable instruments. Usually it is the sale deed which is used as the prime instrument to claim title to property. But it gives rise to litigation with different persons furnishing different instruments to contest title claims.

In contrast, under the Land Titling system, the government guarantees conclusive title, as against presumed title, for every immovable property which is tagged with an unique property identification number.

Titles under the new system would be indefeasible — title of any immovable property entered in the Register of Titles cannot be altered or made void.

After sale, the Register of Titles will erase the earlier assignee in the register and replace it with the new holder. In The Register will, on behalf of the government, grant a certificate of conclusive title to the new holder.

The proposed draft model Bill envisages a Land Titling Authority which will have four different divisions — Title Registry, Survey Settlement and Land Information System, Property Valuation, and Legal Services and Title Guarantee — to ensure uniformity and usher in the new system. It also envisages instituting a Land Titling Tribunal to adjudicate issues arising at the time of ushering in the system.

Sinha said the National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP), approved by the Cabinet in 2008, has undertaken a massive programme that can be used as a platform to usher in the new system that seeks to address property rights concerns.

The NLRMP has undertaken computerisation of land records which includes data entry, digitization of cadastral maps and integration of textual and spatial data, strengthening of revenue and survey training institutions, village index maps and core GIS, legal changes and programme management.

“I am given to understand that the West Bengal government has almost completed digitization of its land records and is now ready to usher in the new system. I hope the model Act will help the state government modernise the property rights system in the state,” said Sinha, expressing the hope that the model law will provide the basis for uniformity across the country.

May 27, 2010. Indian Express