GS (M) Paper-3: “Land reforms in India.”
India needs to manage its publicly held land holdings with more diligence and data
- India’s public land holdings – one of government’s most significant tangible assets.
- A 2013 study indicated that these holdings are very large and potentially underutilised.
- The 13 major port trusts hold around 100,000 hectares of land. The Airports Authority of India controls 20,400 hectares and Indian Railways own 43,000 hectares.
- The ministry of defence is India’s largest landowner. Its holdings amount to over 700,000 acres.
Obstacles in valuing public lands:
- These extensive land holdings are worth a great deal. Valuing all of India’s public land is a difficult task for three reasons.
- the absence of publicly available information on public land holdings.
- incomplete public information regarding existing leasing transactions.
- the paucity of public land transactions that have been conducted on an open and competitive, rather than privately negotiated, basis.
- Disposing of surplus land could free up fiscal resources for investments in public assets such as infrastructure networks that can bring benefits to society for years to come.
- This is not something radical. Government agencies have regularly alienated public land for various uses.
Public Land Management:
- The relevant question is not whether to dispose of public land. This is happening now and will continue in future.
- The real question is whether the governance arrangements for management of public land can be improved to serve the public purpose better.
- This problem of public land management is not peculiar to India.
- International experience: Tells us that for successful realisation of value from public land, the management of this asset should be left to specialised agencies with a clear mandate and it must have indicators for performance evaluation.
- Constituting a committee of secretaries or administrative officials is counter-productive.
- The first step is initiating a comprehensive inventory of public land.
- A good inventory should record location and dimensions of each land parcel, legal title and any restrictions on development, current use and future planned use, and valuation.
- Such an exercise should be carried out by all departments in a ministry, as well as by all public sector undertakings. Then, these be made publicly accessible.
- Once the inventory is completed, a centralised process for identifying surplus public land must be developed.
- There must be administrative as well as financial incentives for surplus land disposition and sound asset management.
- To achieve this, the onus must be placed on government agencies to justify why they should hold any land parcel, by requiring them to demonstrate their necessity.
- Once a list of surplus land has been identified and made public, interested parties (both private and public) can express a demand for the particular land parcels that are useful to them.
- The initial inventory exercise should lead to an annual land audit using the principle of value for money to identify excess public land.
- The goal should be to divest the properties that are not cost-effective for public service provision. Property having no efficient use is to be put on the open market at full value – for rent, or for sale.
- Such an audit and its underlying principle will also help in acquisition and allocation of public land.
GS (M) Paper-2: “Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections”
Finding the Missing Children
- In November 2016, the Madurai Bench, while addressing a complaint relating to a missing child, criticised the State government’s laxity in tracing missing children.
- It noted the lack of coordination between officials of the district administration, social welfare, child welfare committee and the police.
A national problem:
- The issue of missing children is a national problem which needs to be tackled efficiently and at the earliest.
- Stats show that over 60,000 children go missing every year in the country.
- There are also concerns about the number of girl children who go missing and is often connected to human trafficking.
- The Government of India has start Operation Smile and Operation Smile-II to rescue/rehabilitate the missing children.
- The railway police started implementing ‘Operation Muskaan’ to trace missing and destitute children and reunite them with their parents.
Online tracking sites:
- In 2012, NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan — filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court on the issue of missing children.
- Consequent to which the court ordered State and Central governments to periodically submit compliance reports in the court relating to the status of missing children.
- Pursuant to this order, the Ministry of Women and Child Development also set up a website, trackthemissingchild.gov.in.
- This interactive website has information relating to missing children in each State and the number of children missing and traced in real time.
- Another portal which was set up in June 2015 is http://khoyapaya.gov.in where information relating to missing children can be submitted.
Not effective enough?
- Setting up these portals is good but greater awareness and specialized manpower are needed to ensure that these websites perform the functions that were envisioned for them.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), incidents of human trafficking are rising every year where the issue of tracing missing children and the links with trafficking was the area that demanded urgent legal reform.
- Between 2013 and 2014, at least 67,000 children in India went missing; 45 per cent were minors who were victims of trafficking for prostitution.
- In trafficking, primary causes are forced marriage, child labour, procuration of minors as domestic help and sexual exploitation.
Grey area of ‘other reasons’:
- The number of missing children is 10 times more than what is stated in findings and research because the majority of trafficking victims are not included in missing cases nor is there any official record.
- In the reasons identified by the NCRB for human trafficking, the most predominant cause was labelled as “other reasons”.
- Considering the critically large number of cases that fell under this category, this issue needs deeper study to find a targeted solution.
- To begin with, the reasons behind children going missing need to be identified through specialised studies, unique to different States. This is because the reasons differ across the country.
- For example, in Madhya Pradesh, a key cause behind children being kidnapped is because they are used as domestic labour, which is not so in many other States.
- The issue of children becoming victims of trafficking frequently makes international headlines and there is rising global concern about trafficking.
- The draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, which seeks to address loopholes in the legal system, impose stronger penal measures and address issues of rehabilitation, was not taken up in the winter session in Parliament.
- Strong, well-coordinated platforms are needed to deal with the problem of missing children.
- Sound rehabilitation measures need to be in place as well for the well-being and protection of rescued children who have been victims of violence.