Working Papers

Land Rights For Urban Slum Dwellers: A Review of the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2017 and the Jaga Mission

Centre For Policy Research

October 28, 2022

Theorists of economic development have emphasized the importance of clear, legally guaranteed property rights in ensuring economic development. Legally enforceable rights over land are thought of as a solution to incentivize investment in land, ensure optimal use of resources and create the conditions for market led-growth. Land rights (either through titling or restricted rights over land) have long been considered as a precondition for development because they increase access to formal credit. In the specific context of urban slum dwellers, the added benefit of land rights is that these rights can be used to ensure tenure security, help provide municipal services and other social benefits.

Based on these presumptions in 2017, the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dweller Act (OLRSDA) and the Odisha Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act (OMC) were enacted. These enactments along with the implementation of the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission, (also known as the JAGA mission) kickstarted a process of urban redevelopment. The policy measure of providing land rights to slum dwellers has been replicated in Punjab under the “BASERA” scheme and is under consideration in Himachal Pradesh.

In this paper, I have analysed Odisha’s legislative and policy-based interventions to alleviate urban poverty through land rights. My key findings in this paper are as follows: (i) land rights under the OLRSDA are not sufficiently integrated within the existing legal framework and there exist several ambiguities. As a result, the land right granted cannot be used as an economic resource and offers limited increase in tenure security; (ii) land rights are beneficial yet insufficient to lead to the proposed goals of increasing access to municipal services and access to subsidies; (iii) government intervention is required at each stage of the slum redevelopment process to ensure the achievement of these goals.