Land Conflicts in India: An Interim Analysis

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative & Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Date: November 16, 2016

Land and resource conflicts in India have deep implications for the well-being of the country’s people, institutions, investments, and long-term development. These conflicts reveal deep structural flaws in the country’s social, agrarian, and institutional structures, including ambiguities in property rights regimes and institutions. In 2014, a study focusing primarily on reports in the national media reflected the gravity of these conflicts. There was great interest in this narrow exercise, which prompted a more rigorous and detailed data collection on conflicts and creation of an interactive web portal on land and resource conflicts in India.

While the exercise is ongoing, this brief provides an interim analysis of approximately 289 conflicts for which data was collected thus far, covering the period between January-September, 2016. This analysis provides a powerful instrument to understand land resource conflicts in India. The emerging patterns from the analysis of the 289 conflicts provide inferences about sectoral and spatial distribution of conflicts. Based on these patterns, our assessment is that this brief has captured roughly 25- 40 percent of active and substantive land conflicts in the country.

Visit the interactive Land Conflict Watch Portal
  • Key Findings
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Key Findings

  • The study analyzed 289 ongoing land-related conflicts in the country. Together these conflicts affect close to 32 lakhs (3.2 million) people and span close to 12 lakhs (1.2 million) hectares of land in India. These conflicts affect industrial or development projects amounting to roughly Rs. 12 lakhs crores (Rs. 12 trillion) in investment.
  • Infrastructure projects account for almost half of all of the land related conflicts documented by the study.
  • Three-quarters of the land-related conflicts involved common lands, either forests or non-forests.
  • More than 40 percent of all land-related conflicts involve forest lands, mostly concentrated in regions where customary rights of tribal communities are not recognized.
  • Land acquisition by the government is a major cause of land conflict, involving 60 percent of all reported cases.
  • Districts affected by left-wing extremism have 1.5 times greater number of land conflicts compared to the national average.
  • Districts with Schedule V Areas, have 1.5 times greater number of conflicts than the national average. They account for almost one-third of the total number of people affected by conflicts.
  • In order to sustain and expand India’s socioeconomic development, it is imperative that the government respect its communities’ legal land rights, and ensure that their formal as well as customary jurisdiction over commons is recognized and respected.

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