FAO.org

Home > Gender and Land Rights Database > Country profiles > Countries List > Land tenure and related Institutions
Gender and Land Rights Database

India

Prevailing systems of land tenure

- Approximately 86 percent of the country’s arable land is privately owned (24).

- Common village land or commons refer to common property land resources within the boundary of the village which were formally, by legal sanction or official assignment, held by village panchayat or community of the village. Common village land may fall into the following categories:

> Village panchayat grazing land/pasture land: many villages have land earmarked as permanent pasture land/grazing land. These are variously known as gauchar, gochar, gairan, gomol, etc. Villagers have user right on permanent pasture by legal sanction. 

>  Village forest and woodlot and van panchayat forest: includes all land under village forest and woodlots and the area notified as forest within the village, which may belong to the forest department or any other government department, but is formally under the management of village panchayat or a community of the village. Van panchayat forests in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, which are formally managed by village communities, are included in this category. 

>  Village sites and threshing floor: include village sites and all area of land which is set aside for the common use of the villagers for economic activities, such as processing of agricultural produce, storing of grains or other agricultural produce and firewood (23).

The common property land resources account for 15 percent of the land area, composed as follows: 3.45 percent of community pastures and grazing land; 2.40 percent of village forest and woodlots; and, 9.15 percent of other lands (25).

- All other categories of land not under private ownership, like barren and uncultivable land, waste land, land put to non-agricultural uses and forests belong to the State Revenue Department or Forest Department. Nevertheless, the rural population, particularly the landless, depend greatly on the goods and services available from these categories of land. Besides, although no individual has exclusive property rights over these resources, there are systems of customary rights which support traditional practices, such as gleaning or grazing of cattle in the fields after harvest, which represent common rights on private property in certain situations (23).

- Land rental markets play an important but under-utilized role in providing land access for the landless. As a consequence of tenancy restrictions and protections, landowners who rent-out must select tenants they trust not to reveal the relationship or assert their rights. Thus, it is generally considered that larger farmers, who qualify for tenancy protections or belong to the same socio-economic class as the landowner, present lesser risks as tenants (24).

National and local institutions enforcing land regulations

State governments are responsible for the enactment and enforcement of land regulations within their territories (16).

Gram panchayats are self-governing local institutions recognized by the Constitution in 1992, which are responsible for the preparation and implementation of economic and social plans. States can also assign gram panchayats the powers and duties necessary for implementation of land reforms, land consolidation, rural housing, and maintenance of community assets (24).

Gram panchayats manage grazing land, forests and other common property resources, at the local-village level (13). They also play a significant role in resolving land disputes and conflicts at the village level (24).

One-third of elected members are required to be women according to Articles 243C and 243D of the Constitution. Scheduled castes, formerly untouchables and tribes are also guaranteed representation in proportion to their population (13).

According to Article 323B(1) of the Constitution, the States may provide for the adjudication or trial by tribunals of any disputes, complaints, or offences with respect to land reforms, the control and regulation of rent and tenancy issues including the right, title and interest of landlords and tenants (16).

Land administration institutions and women quotas

- The land administration system varies across states as each state has exclusive responsibility on land and water governance (26).

The basic structure of land administration in any state comprises of four main institutions:

> The Land Revenue Department maintains the database for land records as well as tax registers, where they exist, and collects land revenues. The Department is the key institution in managing land records and traditionally has been the main interface between the state and the rural population. At the district and lower level, revenue officials also assume judicial functions.

Each district is divided into blocks, often subdivided into revenue circles made of several revenue villages. Within each village, an official is responsible for maintenance of land records, the recording of any mutation in the Record of Rights (RoR), and issuance of certified copies of the RoR. The RoR is equivalent to a title and is used by farmers as a proof of ownership to obtain loans from banks or to take crop insurances.

>  The Survey and Land Records Department is responsible for maintaining spatial data, mapping and demarcating boundaries, and executing surveys for sub-division on demand.

>  The Department of Stamps and Registration is responsible for registering deeds and for collecting stamp duty due on these transactions. Procedures for registration are governed by the 1908 Land Registration Act with state amendments. Upon registration, a fee proportional to the value of the property transacted has to be paid; revenues from stamp duty are a major source of revenues, close to a third of the total in many states.

>  Local bodies, such as municipal corporations or gram panchayats maintain a property tax register and, in some cases, maps, layout plans, or city surveys in areas not covered by original surveys (26).

Funding provisions to guarantee women’s land transactions

- The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), registered in 1993, is the main micro-credit agency focused on women and their economic empowerment. As of September 2004, RMK had disbursed about Rs.1182 million benefiting about 507 650 women through 1130 NGOs (18).

The Government has undertaken various schemes to provide alternative systems of credit to women through RMK, in addition to micro credit and self-help schemes (18).

- The Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana government anti-poverty programme provides vulnerable families with income-generating assets through a mix of bank credit and Government subsidy. On 31 March 2005, the percentage share of women who benefited from this scheme reached 48.44 (18).

Other factors influencing gender differentiated land rights

- The lack of enforcement of land laws and regulations hampers women’s rights to land. For example, in West Bengal, beneficiary lists for government land grants drawn up by gram panchayats did not apply the West Bengal policies which required that land be granted jointly to married couples or individually to single women. The submitted lists did not include unmarried women and the Land Reforms officers did not correct the omissions (24).

- The land holdings of both spouses are summed together for the purposes of land ceilings. In case of surplus, officers have considerable discretion in deciding the area to be forfeited. This is usually done in consultation with the husband, and often leads to forfeiture of the wife’s land (13).

- Although the wording of legislation is usually gender neutral as to allocation of forfeited land, land redistribution programmes mainly targeted male household heads as recipients (13).

- Women tend to be excluded from decision-making processes. Women do not attend meeting of gram panchayats because cultural and social factors such as female seclusion and low consideration of women’s ideas, hinder their meaningful participation in these local institutions (13).

- Rural people and even more so rural women are often isolated from media sources and rely on information supplied by local officials and gram panchayat. However, officials are often not informed about changes in legislation or policies and, consequently, they might not provide people with the right information or the support needed to protect their interests (24).

- Women often renounce to their statutory rights in favour of male family members due to the economic and social dependence on their kin. Furthermore, in some parts of the country, it is considered socially shameful for a woman to claim her rights before courts, vis-à-vis with her male family members (13).

- Unequal education status and restrictions on mobility further exacerbate the situation for women (18). Women’s seclusion limits their mobility and participation in activities outside the home and knowledge of the physical environment, hampering their access to information on new agricultural technologies and practices, to purchasing inputs and selling the products. The degree of such restrictions varies across regions and is strongest in northwest India while virtually absent in the south and northeast (14).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography