The silver Jubilee of Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) is being celebrated in a 5-day long celebration, i.e from 26th March 2016 to 31st March 2016. The first day of the celebration was observed today at Maurya Hotel, Patna.
‘Land and Equity’ formed the fulcrum of the inaugural session of the five-day International Conference on ‘Development and Growth: Experience and Theories’ that kick-starts year-long lectures to commemorate the silver jubilee of Asian Development Research Insititute (ADRI) on Saturday.
Lord Meghnad Desai, Labour peer and renowned Economist, paid accolades to ADRI on its silver jubilee. “Congratulations To Dr. Shaibal Gupta for having set up this Institute away from the metros,” the Baron who took the Chair at inaugural session felicitated ADRI on its achievements.
Dr. Shaibal Gupta, Member-Secretary of ADRI, in his welcome address, spoke of Foundation Lectures hosted by ADRI over the years. “We shall be having a series of Silver Jubilee lectures over the next twelve months,” he said.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley drew on theories and empirical experiences from across India and the world to bring forth ‘some understudied issues’ on the burning question of ‘land and equity.’
Dr. Bardhan addressed the issue on five key parameters :
- General Equilibrium Effects of Land Reform
- Importance of Land Reform Related to Demographic and Market Effects on Land Distribution
- ‘Land to the Tiller’ is not Enough
- Land and Gender Equity
- Land and Inter?sectoral Equity.
Buttressing his arguments with his own farm?level panel data for about 700 farms in West Bengal (where some significant land reform was carried out) in 1982?95, Dr. Bardhan described the literature on the effect of land reform on farm productivity drawing upon the long?established theoretical and empirical findings of the general negative relationship between farm size and productivity in peasant agriculture and the sharecropping literature with its emphasis on the static misallocation effects (originally pointed out by Marshall) and dynamic disincentive effects of tenurial insecurity (pointed out by J. S. Mill) as “partial?equilibrium effects.”
Reiterating that share-cropping has been intrinsic to the issue of Land reforms, Dr. Bardhan said that both English and French literature are replete with references to share-cropping. Dr. Bardhan’s study in Bengal showed that positive effects on farm productivity on share-cropped holdings were not isolated instances. “The productivity of owner tilled farms too improved,” he said.
Local government programmes help. They had greater positive effects. Here, the role of inducement effects was important. “Local ground-water sellers who invested in tube wells helped lower farm costs in West Bengal,” he said, calling them “pecuniary externalities” which remain one of the understudied aspects.
The incidence of tiny farms, high landlessness and inequality need to be looked at in Bihar too. “The spillover effects of land reforms need to be looked at along with other such data,” he said.
Talking about the context of land history, Dr. Bardhan said: “The redistribution of land rights may not be the major factor for land inequality.”
His keynote address on the issue stressed on the effects of demography on land. These include: Household land patterns, patterns of inheritance like primogeniture versus equal inheritance and Mitakshara versus Dayabhaga schools of Hindu law on inheritance.
Holding that household divisions and exits are a major cause of inequality, Dr. Bardhan rued the lack of data on inheritance. “To estimate changes, there are various studies in Development literature,” he said, adding that land per household and per capita have declined, inequality and landlessness have risen. “Household divisions have pushed land owning to less than half an acre in households. This has had an adverse effect on the viability of land holdings.
“Democracy Trumps Politics in Matters of Land Inequality” : Dr. Pranab Bardhan.
“The high rates of division among small and marginal land-owning households remain under-researched,” he said.
“Cooperatives of small farmers are the way to counter the trend of land holdings becoming unviable,” he advocated, referring to such initiatives in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
Dr. Bardhan’s address focused on the critical issue of Gender equity in the land. Pointing to the bias against women, he said that women remain largely unassociated with agriculture. They work more as casual laborers but with men moving away from agriculture, more women are getting into the field.
Dr. Bardhan stressed on the discrimination against daughters in land bequests. “Some governments have made corrections by transferring land in the name of women,” he said.
Dr. Bardhan’s address then focused on the big, sensitive issue of land acquisitions, drawing in its compass the Land Acquisition Act of 2013. “Who should acquire: The State or the Market”, he posed, answering that neither should do it alone. If the market rules, several problems- hold-up issues- arise. A large number of sellers, spotty record and titles and transaction costs compound the problem.
“With huge transaction costs, the state is better placed to acquire land,” he said, adding: “ From sellers’ point of view, small land owners are no match for corporate buyers. The state is better equipped to supply roads and power but it needs to bring in training and skill formation programmes (for land sellers),” he said.
Dr. Bardhan called the ‘sweet-pill’ of promising one job per land selling family as a wrong practice. “This is unfair to employers,” he said while pitching that the state including local governments should be involved in the process to take care of tenants, landless workers and sharecroppers. “Livelihood workers should not be left to the market,” he stressed.
“The state’s role is important to combat the strong-arm tactics of the land mafia,” he emphasized while also raising the issue of corruption.
DR Bardhan advocated the setting up of independent Regulatory Commissions, a quasi-judicial body, to tackle the issue of land acquisition through regular hearings to expeditiously redress grievances on the ground.
On the issue of compensation, Dr. Bardhan mentioned the heterogeneities involved. He negated theories of localized land auctions as well as corporate auctions. He singled out the dubious role of brokers and middle-men in such exercises. “ The second best option is to decide prices on fixed agro-climatic factors, but the heterogeneities on the ground make this too a difficult proposition.”
Dr. Bardhan raised his concern at the sky-rocketing prices of land. “ Such (escalation in) prices make land unaffordable for development.,” he said while also pointing to the emerged scenario of “ post dissatisfaction”, citing After-sales agitations like in the case of Yamuna Expressway as a case in point.
“An annuity to farmers may be the viable solution, “ Dr. Bardhan summed while opening that the Land Acquisition Act 2013 inhibits flexibility in compensation.
Chief guest Dr. Ashok Choudhary, Bihar’s Education minister, earlier set the tone of the day’s deliberations by introducing land redistribution and acquisition as two debating points in Bihar. “We are quite familiar with several efforts made in Bihar to redistribute land to spread equity….from Sahajanand Saraswati’s peasant movement to Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan and how they tried to address this by sensitizing people to voluntarily share the land with poor peasantry. Both these efforts could not bear many fruits and suddenly we find left-wing movements fighting for land rights in the 1970s, “ he recalled, presenting the present scenario: “Now, even among old landlord families, availability of land per household has hugely declined.”
The minister informed that the identification of Bhoodani land and distribution of pending possession letter to 1.5 lakh families has again been taken up. “I am happy to inform you that the Bihar government is also making efforts to transfer small plots to people from disadvantaged sections of society to construct houses. Under Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Yojana, our government has started ‘Operation Basera’ to help Mahadalits get a piece of land to call their own,” he informed.
“We now face a futuristic debate on how to best utilize land for emerging challenges of urbanization or urbanization and preparing for industrialized society,” Dr. Choudhary said, calling urban space as liberating for women and Dalits. “Dalits feel more at ease in cities which are structurally not equipped to perpetuate caste identification.
“The changed scenario of labour migration and increasing mechanization of agriculture has now made compensation for land acquisition as the primary issue,” he said, stressing: “Bihar is on the cusp of a new growth era. A bright future awaits with Bihar set to emerge as the growth engine of Eastern India.”
Development and Growth: Experiences and Theories, being organized as part of the ADRI Silver Jubilee celebrations 2016-2017 which began here at Maurya Hotel Saturday. The topic of the first of the lectures in a series was ‘Land and Equity: Some Understudied Issues”.
The five-day conference will end on March 30 and witness lectures from a distinguished panel and discussions, through audience questions, on a number of development issues earlier, while beginning the session, Chairman Lord Meghnad Desai praised ADRI and its member-secretary Shaibal Gupta for establishing and sustaining a research and analysis body like ADRI outside a metro.
Welcoming delegates and guests, Gupta said the lectures were an extension of the ADRI Foundation lectures and sought to enhance the knowledge capital of the country and the state in pursuit of suitable development theories. “ADRI brings development issues to the fore…generates and implements ideas,” he said, adding that land was still a burning issue in the former Bengal Presidency and, therefore, the lecture formed a perfect backdrop for the conference.
Introducing Dr. Bardhan and his lecture, Prof. Anjan Mukherji, Country Director of International Growth Centre (IGC) India-Bihar, said Bardhan saw poverty from close quarters which prepared him for his professional life.
The unique feature of his (Bardhan’s) academic career is that he started to look at microeconomic foundations of the development process, Mukherji said. He concluded with an amusing anecdote from Bardhan’s days in Delhi which had the sizeable audience in splits.
Professor Prabhat P Ghosh, Director, ADRI, delivered the vote of thanks. He said the topic is of utmost importance for a state like Bihar which has one of the highest population densities in the country. The five-day event has been sponsored by The World Bank, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and The International Growth Centre (IGC).