Instructive Instruments: Land Records Modernisation in Urban India

Sudeshna Mitra  | July 2016


There is currently a move towards modernising land records across India. By default, these modernisation efforts have focussed on rural areas, due to colonial legacies of records focussing on agricultural land holdings and collecting agricultural revenues. Translating these modernisation interventions to urban areas highlight both the uneven geographies of urban property rights regimes and the conflicted relationship of these regimes to different scales of urban governance. On one hand, property relationships in urban areas are evolving rapidly to keep up with demographic growth, economic transitions as well as spatial expansion into peri-urban areas. On the other hand, urban records modernisation initiatives are attempting to ‘see’ cities’ landscape, through the simplified lens of ownership and titling. This paper analyses the emerging terrain of governance, rights and land use in urban areas and highlights not only the disjunctures embedded within current initiatives, but also the challenges of undertaking comparative research and analysis within this emergent terrain.