Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Property rights for future migrants

That is the article in today’s BS by Sanjeev Sanyal. He argues that the:

“…..public policy should focus less on getting rid of slums and more on rethinking property rights, especially those of the poor……… the first problem with recognising squatter rights is that we create problems of governance by potentially encouraging land-grab. We not only have to think about today’s urban poor, but also about the incentive structure presented to the next generation of migrants. Second, the formalisation is usually done on the basis of a cut-off date. This often recognises the rights of better-off old-timers against those of poorer newcomers. Finally, and most importantly, in next generation cities like Gurgaon, the poor live in the “urban villages” where property rights are very clearly defined and any tampering would cause serious social upheaval. So, what should we do?

Identity as a property right: The single-most important, and sometimes only, asset of a poor migrant is her identity. Without any form of identification, it is very difficult for a newcomer to fit into the urban landscape — no gas connection, no mobile phone, no voter rights, no credit and so on. It is nearly impossible for such an individual to apply for jobs in the formal economy or sometimes even as domestic help. Thus, a reliable and robust system of identification is invaluable. This is why Nandan Nilekeni’s Unique Identity Number scheme may turn out to be a major intervention.

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