the physics of disappearing land

going back to this post:
could it have been stolen? 44% and more of all cultivable land in india?
there must be some law of physics that says land can't disappear or be stolen. but look at how tough it is to find the land that's disappeared from most of our cities:
In 2001, office space near the center of town sold for $1 a square foot. Now it can go for $400 a square foot. Janwani bought his 6-acre plot in 1992 for $13,000. Today, even undeveloped, it's worth $3 million.

But high prices are only part of the problem for businesses looking for space in the city. It's nearly impossible to determine who actually owns any given piece of Bangalorean real estate. Some 85 percent of citizens occupy land illegally, according to Solomon Benjamin, a University of Toronto urban studies professor who specializes in Bangalore's real estate market. Most land in the city, as in the rest of India, is bound by ancestral ties that go back hundreds of years. Little undisputed documentation exists. Moreover, as families mingle and fracture over generations, ownership becomes diluted along with the bloodline. A buyer who wants to acquire a large parcel may have to negotiate with dozens of owners. Disputes are inevitable.

scott carney's great investigative work on the land mafia in bangalore could be easily read as a great investigative work on the land mafia in bangalore. please read the italicized portions again- the lessons we need to draw from it are not about the land mafia.
Some 40 percent of land transactions occur on the black market, according to Arun Kumar, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Often the local authorities facilitate these deals. A World Bank report rated the Bangalore Development Authority, which oversees urban planning, as one of the most corrupt and inefficient institutions in India.
and, from another page:
"When a foreign company wants to set up a business, they don't know who to trust," he says. "They need clear titles, and if they go to a local person, they're going to get screwed with legal cases. But if Rai gives you a title, it comes with a 100 percent guarantee of no litigation. No cheating. It's perfectly straightforward." [...]
According to a lawyer who deals with land issues, the system works like this: Asked to intercede by a prospective buyer, Rai checks out the parcel for competing owners. If two parties assert ownership, he hears both sides plead their case and decides which has the more legitimate claim (what he calls "80 percent legal"). He offers that person 50 percent of the land's current value in cash. To the other, he offers 25 percent to abandon their claim—still a fortune to most Indians, given the inflated price of Bangalorean real estate. Then he sells the land to his client for the market price and pockets the remaining 25 percent. Anyone who wants to dispute the judgment can take it up with him directly. [...]
Collusion between enforcers and mobsters raises troubling questions about the future of this city. "Since Bangalore went global, things have gotten worse," says Santosh Hegde , his graying hair dyed jet-black and a chain of prayer beads around his neck. He's the state official responsible for prosecuting corruption cases. "Businesspeople want to get things done quickly, and they have no option but to bribe officials to shortcut the bureaucracy," he says.Hegde, 68, served six years on India's Supreme Court before taking the anticorruption beat. He oversees a team of accountants who burrow through documents and field operatives trained in covert recordings and sting operations. Since assuming office, Hegde has charged more than 300 officials with receiving cash bribes totaling over $250,000 and illegal assets and land holdings worth $40 million. That's just 5 percent of total bribery in Karnataka, he says, which he estimates at more than $800 million.
no, it isn't about the land mafia, or about corruption or about fast paced development. and it isn't about bangalore or any other big city in india either.

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