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 Property Rights
Workshop on Property Rights as Human Rights: A summary report
Liberty Institute, India Monday, September 5, 2011

This is a brief account of the workshop on 'Property Rights as Human Rights' hosted by Liberty Institute, along with its partners, held in Hyderabad, on Aug 13-14, 2011. Dr Rosaiah, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, inaugurated the workshop, and released the International Property Rights Index 2011. About 50 participants, attended this workshop, and discussed the evolution of the principle of property rights, and impact of land acquisition and other laws. Participants got a demonstration of how ICT could be harnessed to document and map land by people themselves.

A Summary Report on Workshop on

“Property Rights as Human Rights”
Hyderabad, August 13-14, 2011

Liberty Institute, New Delhi, organized a two-day workshop on “Property Rights as Human Rights” in Hyderabad, with the partnership Friedrich Naumann – Stiftung fur die Freiheit, and in Association with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Andhra Pradesh unit and Association for Promotion of Social Action (APSA), Hyderabad, at the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) premises in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.

About 50 participants attended the workshop. They include three from Karnataka, one from Assam, and some from different districts of Andhra Pradesh. The participants included human rights activists, grassroots level worker, academicians, liberal activists, political and social leaders, and researchers.

The workshop was inaugurated by former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr K Rosaiah (presently he is Governor of Tamil Nadu). In his inaugural address he observed that there is a constitutional obligation on the part of the union and federal governments to confer and protect absolute rights on the property to both private individuals, various forms of business organisations and property that would still rest with the government for the larger benefit of society. But, he said that what happened in independent India is more misuse of such legatee rights and private property rights and common property rights.

Dr Rosaiah pointed out that over the past few years land has emerged as a key issue on the social and political agenda of the country. Almost every section of society has been affected by the growing controversy and conflict over land rights. While the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, continues to be on the statue book, he said, the acquisitions have become socially and politically increasingly contentious. In the case of Singur, or the Yamuna Expressway, the courts had held that the land acquisition was legally valid. Yet, the social and political cost of implementing the law has been rising, he added.

He commended this workshop on property rights as human rights, as it was being held at a very opportune time. This is a very innovative way to look at the relationship between land and property rights on the one hand, and the human rights on the other. He expressed hope that the discussions could help in improving our understanding of the underlying issues. And perhaps a way might be found to resolve these conflicts over land. This may help ensure that rights of the people are protected, their economic developmental needs are met, and their social and environmental concerns are resolved in a win-win manner.

He felt that there are very many issues relating to property rights which require a thorough debate and coherent understanding so that the policy maker is enabled to enable property rights conferment as integral to human rights.

Dr Rosaiah released the International Property Rights Index 2011, published by the Property Rights Alliance, an international coalition of over 40 civil society organizations, including the Liberty Institute. Shri Barun Mitra, director of Liberty Institute, briefly described the report, and noted that India’s rank in this index has been steadily slipping over the past few years.

Prof C V Raghavulu, former Vice Chancellor of Acharya Nagarjuna University, presided over the inaugural session. Shri Anil K Parashar, Joint Registrar (Law) and Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was present in the workshop from New Delhi for two-days as the representative of the apex national human rights body. In his address, he said since ancient times property has been considered as an important indicator in the overall well being of an individual. He said the NHRC has always vouched for the citizen‘s rights to acquire, own and enjoy property. Stating that Right to Property is an important Human Right, he said to achieve the desired ends for the full enjoyment of this it is imperative to establish a society that ensures inclusive growth and distributive justice.

Mrs Jaya Vindhyala, state president, People Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), gave vote of thanks, and concluded the inaugural session.

In the first session of the workshop, Shri Barun Mitra dealt with the subject Property & Democracy : A Historical Perspective. He traced the historical role of property ownership in establishing democracy since the ancient city states in Greece. He also proposed that the reference to habeas corpus in England, at the time of Magna Carta was the first recognition of human rights in the world. Prof A Chakradhara Rao, Osmania University, presided over this session.

Mr Barun Mitra, Director, Liberty Institute Speaking on Property Rights.

Release of International Property Rights Index 2011. From left to right, Mr Narrendra, Prof C V Raghavulu, Mr Barun Mitra and Dr K Rosaiah.

In the next session Shri Ch. Ravi Kumar, of WASSAN, who has been working on land issues, outlined the key provisions of the newly proposed Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011. He pointed out several anomalies in the proposed bill, which needed further clarity. Shri K Narayana Reddy, farmer‘s leader from Tirupati presided.

Shri Ravi Nair, Executive Director, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, New Delhi, in his special address dealt with the general human rights scenario in the country. He deplored over systematic aversions of the constitutional rights by the people at the helm of affairs. He pointed out a number of instances when Parliament had passed a law or promised certain measures, but the executive had ignored those efforts. He cautioned that such an attitude will make the people to lose faith in rule of law.

On the second day of the workshop, Dr S. Jeevananda Reddy, Convener, Forum for a Sustainable Environment, Hyderabad, explained some of the issues related to Urban Slums and Urban Properties. He stated that the rapid growth of urban slums is associated with globalization phenomena, he wondered if it would be possible to build at least one clean and green city. He cautioned that as long as concentrated developments are confined to existing urban areas there is no way to make India slum free even in the next thousand years.

Dr N Ramakrishna Nallathiga from Construction Industry Staff College (NICMAR), Hyderabad, detailed the lapses in the Government’s land acquisition policy with regard to Special Economic Zones (SEZs) policy. He suggested more transparent and realistic policy in this regard. Prof P Narayana Reddy, Director, National Institute of Tourism & Hospital Management, Hyderabad, presided in this session.

In the next session, Shri Ambrish Mehta, of ARCH, an organisation working in the tribal belt of Gujarat, spoke about the Tribal Rights Act, and explained in detail on how land mapping will help to address several problems related to land ownership. He demonstrated how with simple GPS devices even villagers could map their own land, and other community land in forest areas. He showed satellite images from Google Earth, and explained how change in land use could be determined. He explained on various practices of making use of latest digital technologies in this regard. Tribal activist and Shakti director Shri P Sivarama Krishna presided in this session, also shared his experience of securing land rights for tribal population.

In the valedictory session, Shri S Ramachandra Reddy, former MP, Mrs Renuka Malla Reddy, State President, SUGRAMA, Karnataka, Shri K Vinay Kumar, state president, Dalit Bahujan Front and Ms V Nalini, lecturer in Political Science, shared their experiences in the workshop. Sri S Srinivas Reddy, Director, APSA also shared his views.

Dr. B. Yerram Raju, Regional Director, PRMIA-Hyderabad, and a scholar who has been studying the problems surrounding land for years, helped in preparing the conference documentation, and arranging logistics for the workshop.

The two day discussions concluded with Sri Ch. Narendra, the coordinator of the workshop giving the vote of thanks.

The most important outcome of the workshop was a serious interest expressed by a number of participants to hold similar events in their own areas. A tribal rights activist from East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh wanted to hold a similar workshop to train local activists. An organisation that works among Panchayat members in Karnataka, felt a similar training workshop aimed at Panchayat members and grassroots workers would be useful. A human rights worker from Assam expressed an interest in holding a workshop for human rights activists in the North East region. Although, a senior executive of a large grassroots NGO in Orissa, could not attend the workshop in Hyderabad, he too has expressed a deep interest in this issue of land and property rights, and would like to organize a similar event in Bhubaneshwar.

The programme of the workshop on "Property Rights as Human Rights" is available here.

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This article was published in the Liberty Institute on Monday, September 5, 2011.
Tags- Find more articles on - ICT mapping | land acquisition | land mapping | land right | property democracy | property rights

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