Land for industry as urban challenge–Economic Times–23.11.2017

Land is often cited as a factor of obstruction in India, rather than just a factor of production. The experience of Tata Motors’ Nano factory having to be relocated from Singur, West Bengal, because of local protest over land acquisition for the project, to Gujarat, and subsequent legislation putting forth stiff conditions for land acquisition would seem to validate this point of view. But it is possible to have a different perspective on the matter as well. Having to acquire land for individual factories stems from the absence of an urban ecosystem in which such land can be sourced relatively easily, say, within an industrial park in a town. Releasing land for industry has to be seen as part of the challenges of urbanisation, in general. This challenge is, indeed, being met.

Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, is being built on land sourced from farmers without any major conflict. The farmers are handing over land for building the new town in return for developed land in the town, once it is built. Of course, they will get only a fraction of the land they gave up, but that would be worth a whole lot, thanks to huge premium urban land commands over agricultural land. Such land pooling or land for land arrangements have been tried out successfully in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh as well. In fact, India has to innovate various ways of building stakeholdership for those whose land gets used up for building new towns. As industry and services grow faster than agriculture, more and more workers have to shift to town from country. If half of India were to become urban over the next 15-20 years, enough urban space to accommodate anything up to 25 crore people has to be found. And it cannot be found in existing towns. New towns and cities have to be built.

From the entrepreneurship of farmers near Pune who pooled their land and built a new township, Magarpatta, on it, becoming crorepatis in the process, to land pooling, several routes to farmer stakeholdership in new towns built on their erstwhile land exist. The point is to pursue them vigorously and keep innovating.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.
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