• Aparna Soni School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal
  • Bhuvaneswari Raman O. P. Jindal Global University




This paper traces the changes in land regulations during the last decade, to facilitate the release of land for urban development in the Indian context.  Focussing on the emerging changes to land regulations, we illustrate the shifts in the Government of India’s approach towards land, moving from a welfarist perspective to one of capturing speculative land value gains. While such shifts are observed in other contexts, the Indian story exemplifies how the regional governments influenced the mobilisation of different legal instruments and have shaped the shifts towards land development models that aid the capture of land value gains for financing urban development and incentivising large developers.   Focussing on the evolution of laws including the: Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act of 2013 (RFCTLARR Act) introduced by the Government of India, we discuss the responses by regional governments.  We show how implementing the RFCTLARR Act has not been easy as envisaged by the National Government.  In response, the regional governments introduced   various land pooling and assembly models, which have simultaneously diluted and subverted the implementation of RFCLARR Act at the sub-national level.

The contest is far from over, as the Government of India’s Ministry of Urban Development is attempting to enforce new land based fiscal tools through centrally supported schemes for urban development. Consequently, the provincial governments have responded by fast tracking land assembly models, which are now seen as ‘alternative’ to land acquisitions. Some of these include licensing models, reconstitution/pooling/readjustment models, and negotiation-based models, but the reconstitution/pooling/readjustment models were found to dominate at the regional (sub-national) level. Besides, the ‘fit for purpose’ design of these models aids the State endorsed spirit of competitive federalism, subscribing to entrepreneurial and speculative models of urban growth. These models are not limited to the process of land assembly, but the regional governments propose to integrate them with the spatial planning tools adding a new language and interpretation to the socialist land use planning discourse in India, raising questions about their implications for socially and environmentally sustainable cities.

We demonstrate the “land policy race” through a comprehensive analysis of policy documents, national and state acts, scheme reports available in the public domain. In this light our paper maps the temporal changes to land regulations from the 1990s and till date. Our paper identifies a significant gap in existing studies on land in Indian context. It seeks to extend debates on urban land development in India through illustrating the interplay of national and sub-national dynamics on the evolution so urban land and planning policies and strategies.


Chakravorty, S., 2016. Land acquisition in India: The political-economy of changing the law. Area Development and Policy, 1(1), pp. 48-62.

Lakhia, S., 2019. Land Pooling as a Means of Mitigating Land Displacement in India. In: N. Yoshino & S. Paul, eds. Land Acquisition in Asia. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 167–181.

Levien, M., 2015. From Primitive Accumulation to Regimes of Dispossession: Six Theses on India's Land Question. Economic and Political Weekly, 50(22), pp. 146-157.