As property prices rise, more Indian women claim inheritance

A 2005 law gave Hindu women across India equal inheritance rights but few have made claims because they are unaware of the law. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 March 2019
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As property prices rise, more Indian women claim inheritance

  • An increase in property prices near New Delhi has pushed more women in to claim their share
  • Only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to the latest census data from 2011

NEW DELHI: Rising property prices in parts of India have helped achieve what women’s rights groups have tried and failed to do for decades — get more women to claim their inheritance.
A 2005 law gave Hindu women across India equal inheritance rights but few have made claims because they are unaware of the law, or have been forced to give up their claims by male family members, according to analysts.
But an increase in property prices near the Indian capital, New Delhi, has pushed more women in Haryana state to claim their share, gender and land rights experts said on Wednesday.
“Despite laws that give rights of inheritance to women, low levels of education and a strong patriarchal tradition can rob women of these rights,” said Prem Chowdhry, a gender expert who has researched women’s inheritance in Haryana.
“But because prices of land have sky-rocketed in these areas, women are being pushed by their husbands or fathers-in-law to claim their share of the family property, or at least be compensated in some way for it,” she said on the sidelines of a land conference in New Delhi.
Property prices in the three Haryana cities that are closest to Delhi have risen by more than half in the past decade as more migrants flocked to the capital and transport links improved, according to Anarock, an Indian property consultant.
Amendments in 2005 to the Hindu Succession Act, which governs matters of inheritance among Hindus — who make up about 80 percent of India’s population — made women’s inheritance rights equal to those of men.
Yet in several states in northern and western India, the custom of “haq tyag,” or sacrifice of right, is practiced, where a woman relinquishes her claim on ancestral property.
The tradition is justified on the grounds that the father pays for his daughter’s wedding and often also gives a dowry, and therefore only the sons are entitled to the family property.
While haq tyag is voluntary, women come under enormous pressure to comply to maintain their relations with their families, Chowdhry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Although there is no official data on inheritance claims made by women in India, only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to the latest census data from 2011.
In a bid to address the imbalance, several states including Haryana — which has among the worst gender imbalances in the country — have lowered registration charges and taxes when a property is in the name of a woman.
These changes have done little to improve women’s property ownership rates, said Govind Kelkar, a senior adviser to the global land rights advocacy group Landesa.
While agreeing that rising property prices could push more women to claim their inheritance, Kelkar said women still had little control over the property they inherited.
“There can also be an increase in violence against women,” she said. “The patriarchal tradition is so strong that women, who themselves own property, when asked if they will leave it to their daughter, still say no.”


After one year in office, Pakistan's economy remains government’s biggest challenge

Updated 20 August 2019
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After one year in office, Pakistan's economy remains government’s biggest challenge

  • Pakistan’s stocks declined by 32 percent and its currency lost its value by 29 percent in a year
  • Economist say Pakistan has got major support from the Arab world due to its new political leadership

KARACHI: Pakistan’s ongoing economic turmoil has overshadowed the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s first anniversary celebrations, as analysts and traders point out that the country’s stock market has witnessed a decline of 32 percent, the national currency has lost its value by 29 percent and the bullion market price has escalated by 60 percent within the last one year.
Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed the country’s top political office on August 18, 2018, promising wide-ranging reforms and economic turnaround. However, his administration found itself struggling against tough economic challenges that included mounting current account and fiscal deficits.
The situation triggered tremendous uncertainty in the stock exchange, making it one of the worst performing markets in Asia. The bench mark KSE 100 index declined from 42,446 points on August 17, 2018, to 28,764 points on August 16, 2019, recording a staggering decline of 32 percent.
“The situation of the market became worse as it remained in the grip of negative sentiments in the backdrop of economic conditions fueled by current account deficit, interest rate hike, and currency devaluations,” Muhammad Faizan Munshey, head of foreign institutional sales at Next Capital, told Arab News.
The stock market on Monday rebounded and gained 798 points to close at 29,562. “The worst condition is almost over and the market is expected to rebound in the future as well,” he added.
Analyst believe that the country’s bourse has bottomed out and the prices are expected to rebound, provided that the growth drivers remain in place. “The government must focus on growth drivers, such as exports, job creation and tax collections, for economic recovery,” Samiullah Tariq, director research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.
During the PTI’s first year in office, the country devalued its currency by almost 29 percent from Rs123.50 against a dollar to Rs159.10 in the interbank market.
Analyst believe the rupee devaluation was done to fulfil the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before Islamabad could avail $6 billion bailout package. “There were two reasons cited for the rupee devaluation: the first was the IMF’s free-float requirement and the second was that the Pakistani rupee was overvalued and needed stabilization,” Zafar Paracha, general secretary of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News.
Pakistan’s central bank governor in June this year tried to dispel the impression that the state bank was reluctant to intervene in the currency market due to the IMF conditions, saying that the country had “adopted a market-based exchange rate system.”
According to Paracha, however, the policy shift took place after the Pak rupee hit a high of 165 against the dollar, saying “it was only then that they [the State Bank and the IMF] realized that free float was not suitable for our market and decided to adopt the market-based exchange rate mechanism instead.”
He added that the lull in the currency market was due to Eid al-Adha related foreign currency inflows. “I don’t see any steps taken to stabilize the economy. Pakistan’s economy does not need ad hoc measures. The change of finance ministers also resulted in a complete shift in policies earlier this year. What the country requires at the moment, however, are carefully crafted stabilization policies that are kept in place for five to ten years.”
Much like the stock and currency markets, the bullion market also experienced volatility as the rate of gold hit Rs89,000 per tola – or approximately 12 grams – on Saturday before cooling down to Rs88,000 on Monday. This rate stood at Rs54,750 a year earlier.
Bullion traders expect the volatility to continue in the market, saying that there has also been a decline in the purchasing power of consumers. “We expect that gold would hit Rs100,000 in the foreseeable future,” Haji Haroon Rasheed Chand, president of All Sindh Saraf Jewelers Association, told Arab News.
Under the circumstances, senior economist say that the country will have to take tough measures with harsh economic and political implications. “Last year, around one million people lost their jobs, poverty increased because the prices of goods jacked up and the growth rate of our economy slowed down,” Dr Hafeez Pasha, former finance minister, told Arab News, adding that “hard times are going to end.”
“Due to our new leader, we have got major support from the Arab world,” he said. “The good thing is that our Arab friends supported the country when it was in dire need and we must thank them for what they have done for us.”
“We received $3 billion from Saudi Arabia and they also extended us the deferred oil payment facility that began in July this year. The United Arab Emirates also deposited $2 billion and Qatar extended $500 million as well,” he added.