Land unrest set to increase in India: study

Enforcement and strengthening of laws that protect land rights of tribals and forest dwellers recommended

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Monday 17 December 2012

MapDisputes over land rights, which have turned violent in recent years with communities taking on authorities, are set to rise India. Land requirement for industrial projects in India are set to be triple in the next 15 years, and with this conflicts over land acquisition are going to increase, according to a new study.

Currently, close to 22,000 sq km land is devoted to projects in agri-business, infrastructure, mining and non-conventional energy sectors. This will increase to 61,653 sq km by 2026, which is close to double the size of Kerala. Most of the land taken over by industries is common land and forests, traditionally used by communities. According to the research conducted by non-profits, Rights and Resource Initiative and Society for the Protection of Wasteland, 130 out of the total 610 districts of the country have been embroiled in conflicts in the past 10 years due to takeover of common lands and forests (see the map). The conflicts have accelerated in the past two years.

The report, through case-studies in six different states, shows how the governments and industries are subverting the rights of the people to acquire common land on a large scale. It says that enforcing and strengthening the laws such as the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) or PESA Act of 1996 and Forests Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, that recognise protect the rights of tribals and other local communities over common land and resources they have been using traditionally, are necessary to end the land and forest conflicts across the country. A fact sheet based on the study:

Common land in India

  • Roughly 34% area of the country is used by people as common land

  • This includes common property resources, which is 15% of the country's area and government forests, which is 19.3% of the country's land

  • 62 % population of the country rely on common land for fuel wood and 36% population use water resources in common land.

Scale of land takeover in India

  • Agribusiness (jatropha, soy and palm plantation) will need maximum 21,744.8 sq milometre additional land by 2026. This is almost equal to the total land acquired by industries currently

  • Total 1,729.3 sq km additional land will be acquired for mining in the next 15 years. Right now 2,383.7 sq km land is under mining

  • Infrastructure projects such as roads, settlements, dams and special economic zones will need 10,387.4 sq km additional land. Right now they occupy 10,915 sq km

  • Non-Conventional Energy projects (wind, solar, agro residue and plantation) will require 5,956.2 sq km additional land by 2026. Right now 288.8 sq km land is under such projects

Land disputes in India

  • One third of the Indian population is impacted by land and forest takeovers

  • An estimated 10,000 armed fighters and 40,000 protesters are involved in violent struggles in rural India that often include dispute over land rights

  • In the last ten years, conflicts over land rights have been reported from every state as well as every forest in the country

Read Also: Land Acquisition Bill


A selection of related reports and documents on Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 

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