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  • Author: Anirudh Burman
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As India’s economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, Indian businesses need efficient financial structures to regain their ground. Key reforms to India’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code could fill these gaps. One of the key drivers of economic recovery in India will be the efficient movement of capital from inefficient firms to efficient ones. The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been severe, and India’s economy was one of the worst affected in 2020–2021. Though the economy is recovering faster than initial estimates, sustained economic recovery will not take place if stressed businesses cannot restructure their debts properly or if failing firms cannot be resolved efficiently. India’s bankruptcy law is key to solving these challenges. In 2016 India enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), which was a landmark reform to the nation’s financial system and the first comprehensive law to regulate insolvency.1 But the IBC has been suspended for a period of one year since the COVID-19-related lockdown was imposed in March 2020. In its place, India’s banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has introduced a limited restructuring scheme for COVID-19-related stress in the meantime. Older mechanisms for insolvency that are still in operation have historically not worked according to expectations. As the one-year period of suspension comes to a close, this paper argues that bringing back the IBC—with adequate modifications—is an important prerequisite for sustained economic growth. India historically suffered from a patchwork framework of insolvency laws that either did not give lenders adequate powers to recover their debts upon default or only catered to the interests of certain kinds of lenders—to the exclusion of others.2 The IBC is a modern and comprehensive bankruptcy law that since its enactment has had a significant role in reducing the problem of nonperforming assets (NPAs), or “bad loans,” in India’s financial system. In the wake of the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, the Indian government suspended the operation of critical parts of the IBC. These changes meant that lenders could not trigger insolvency proceedings against defaulting businesses if the default occurred after March 20, 2020. While this suspension possibly prevented unnecessary business failures and provided a “calm period” for the economy, these measures have outlived their utility.
  • Topic: Law, Finance, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Ankit Bhatia
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As India’s economy has become more urban and industrialized, property and land rights have evolved, too. In the states of Gujarat and Karnataka, key reforms in land leasing and change in land use show what may—and what may not—be a path forward. India is primarily an agrarian society. More than 60 percent of its population is dependent on agriculture and allied services and dwells in rural areas. In the past couple of decades, India has attempted to shift away from its rural-agrarian base toward an urban-industrialized economy. In this journey, it encountered many challenges, but none remain as severe and persistent as the ones related to the assignment and balancing of land and property rights. Land governance in India remains historically complex, politically sensitive, and economically inefficient. In recent times, state governments have attempted proactive measures to reform the sector and bring greater efficiency to land markets. Despite the exigency of these reforms, issues surrounding equity, abuse of power, and nexus among powerbrokers remain central and require thorough analysis. To unpack the fuller effects of the recent reforms, this paper aims to examine key reforms in land leasing and change in land use sub-sectors initiated by Gujarat and Karnataka states. The paper takes a comparative assessment approach to decipher the nuances and complexities of land governances in the two states. Given that land has deep historical connections, this paper briefly delves into the historical evolution of land leasing and change in land use regulation in the two states. The historical analysis highlights the political economy context of each sector and is followed by an in-depth review of the recent reforms. The paper covers reforms effectuated through legislative, executive, and judiciary actions. This approach allows a comprehensive tracking of different mechanisms at play. The paper brings out some interesting findings. In both the states, the change in land use sub-sector was able to reform more frequently than the land leasing sub-sector. Despite both states relying upon all three branches of government to initiate reforms, executive action was used most frequently. On occasion, the judiciary played a critical role, especially when lower branches passed judgments that provided windfall relaxation to the protective regulation. Further, the paper finds that most reforms were not structural in nature; they were merely attempts to ease the restrictions on the transfer of agricultural land. In a complete departure from past objectives, recent reforms attempted to dilute the protective framework of land leasing and change in land use regulation. It is understandable that socioeconomic and political realities have shifted and the archaic regulation may not serve its intended purpose. However, the recent reforms have failed to show a concrete new direction. Instead, they largely focused on allowing a greater transfer of land resources to industries, pushing toward more capital-intensive agriculture, and promoting digitalization of land-related governance and public service delivery.
  • Topic: Reform, Economy, Urban, Land Reform
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India