Home » About PXV » A Case for the Introduction of Transferable Development Rights in West Bengal

A Case for the Introduction of Transferable Development Rights in West Bengal

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Pingal Khan, with inputs from Swati Singh of NALSAR University of Law and Prashanth, from Gujarat National Law University, both interning at PXV Bangalore.


In a previous post, we had discussed the differences between Transferable Development Rights (TDR) in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Originally a European concept, TDR has gone a long way in easing urban land acquisition, obviating the need for monetary compensation. With West Bengal witnessing a new political leadership in decades, it is imperative for the incumbent government to introduce the concept of TDR in the state, not just restricting it to the capital city of Kolkata but also expanding its application to the other parts of the state to strategize overall development and promote the growth of infrastructure within the state. This would help in achieving a balance between the over-congested urban agglomerations and the often neglected rural areas in terms of development, an objective which has always proven to be highly difficult to attain.

TDR – Best Practices for West Bengal

In terms of its land structure, West Bengal presents a highly diverse profile. As per the 2001 Census, the percentage of the total urban area was only 3.7 % of the total geographical area. In fact, urbanization is mostly concentrated in a few southern districts such as Howrah, North 24 Parganas, among others. This is reflective of how unbalanced the benefits of development have been in the state. Needless to say, that in order for the growth to be more evenly distributed, so as to extend the benefits to the rural and undeveloped areas, the state must adopt the TDR regime as soon as possible. The main reasons behind the need for and the major benefits accruing from a TDR system can be enumerated as follows:

i. It serves as an effective substitute for the current mode of acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and its State Acts, where compensation and the guarantee of land in exchange for land become highly problematic modes of exchange.

ii. It provides an efficient way in which the problem of land congestion and lack of public infrastructure can be solved without adding to the density of the land in question and pushing the development activity to areas which are in actual need of it. Given the fact that West Bengal has always been in the thick of issues and upheavals revolving around land acquisition, mostly in the context of the acquisition of agricultural for industrial purposes, facilitated by the government, the above benefits have actually become crucial to the state’s development.

The subsequent discussion shall first discuss the application of TDRs in the urban areas, particularly the capital city of Kolkata. It shall then address the aspect of rural-urban exchange and its importance.

Kolkata and the TDR System

Kolkata is the most important economic centre in Eastern India due to the concentration of industry, financial services and other commercial services within the city and the Kolkata Metropolitan Area. As a consequence of its rapid growth, Kolkata now suffers from the problem of congestion of land, overcrowding, squalor and deprivation. Not only is it in need of expansion of its infrastructural facilities to support the new growth, it also requires spatially balanced urban growth and a more efficient use of its available resources. Kolkata also has a remarkable slum population with more than one-third of its population living in slums, the development of which is one of the most pressing concerns for the city. Every characteristic listed above makes a clarion call for a TDR regime in Kolkata. It is proposed that the best features of both the TDR systems in Mumbai and Bangalore be used to develop a system for Kolkata. This would require, among others :

i. Mapping the ground realities as compared to previous development plans so as to recognize land use trends and zoning realistically.

ii. Analyzing the areas where land use change has been requested, as well as the shift in land use patterns will be required in order to zone and price TDRs.

iii. Identify Sending Zones – which would require the authorities to demarcate areas that are in need of protection (such as heritage sites or environmentally sensitive areas), or mobility corridors which are congested and need expansion and development of other public amenities; and Receiving Zones- where growth is desirable. The zoning must be designed such that higher density is allowed only through the use of TDRs. Developers need to be encouraged to buy TDRs, else the developer will have no incentive to purchase the TDR.

iv. Developing a Market for TDRs- There are multiple stakeholders that will impact the success of the TDR policy. Unless these are identified and co-opted from the start, the TDR will be an ineffective instrument. Three key stakeholders are: planning authorities who will incorporate sending / receiving zones into their comprehensive plans; developer community; citizens.

v. Designating a Special Zoning Administrator for facilitating TDR transfers.

Expanding the notion of TDR

Presently, TDRs are implemented only in the urban cities of India and is essentially used for public infrastructure and residential purposes. This model can also be applied in various districts of the state and in the villages to solve the diverse predicaments relating to land acquisition. It is proposed that the following changes be made to the existing model of TDRs:

1. Expansion of the TDR structure to make it inter jurisdictional – Inter jurisdictional TDRs envisage the use of the development rights in a manner where the receiving zone is any city or rural area different from the one in which the TDR originated. This would require efficient coordination between the authorities in the different districts who should collectively decide the relevant policy and demarcate receiving zones. Such a measure would bring out improved infrastructure development in Tier II and Tier III cities as well as rural areas within a state. This proposition, therefore, visualizes an effective rural-urban TDR exchange.

2. Introduction of two more types of TDR in addition to the ones already in force: Industrial TDR and Occupational/Livelihood TDR – The concepts of Industrial TDR and Occupational TDR propose solutions to the compensation-related land acquisition problems faced by most of the state governments today. It is suggested that the government issues TDRs instead of compensation to land owners during mass land acquisition programmes for industrial development.

It is also suggested that TDRs be issued to landless labourers who do not have title to the land but depend on the acquired land for their livelihood and survival. The right to livelihood is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Agriculture is the main stay of rural economic development and to the tiller of the soil, livelihood depends on the production and return of the agricultural produce and sustained agro-economic growth. Tillers of the soil being in the unorganized sector, their occupation is negatively impacted during land acquisition for industrial development. Nandigram, Singur and the recent Noida corridor protests unequivocally convey to us that the farmers are not satisfied with the amount of compensation given to them, particularly when the government sells the land at very high rates to corporates and industrialists. If development rights are given to farm owners and landless labourers, it will turn out to be more beneficial to them as they can either use these rights to construct buildings in urban locales or they can sell these development rights in cities at a very high rate. Thus, the villagers and farm owners can be satisfied with the utility value of the TDRs over monetary compensation. Also, this kind of land acquisition by issue of occupational TDR will not affect the State’s coffers and will result in a win-win situation for both the citizens and the state. Conclusion West Bengal is one of the most promising economies in India today.

The recent change in its political regime presents the government with the most opportune chance to bring in equitable development in the state by coming out with a lucid TDR policy which will help them tackle urban congestion and contentious land acquisition troubles which have plagued its earlier attempts to industrialize the economy. Such a TDR regime, with the incorporation of the above recommended changes would be highly effective in bridging the gap between the urban and the rural areas, thus providing for an all-round growth and development of the State.



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