Land Purchase at Nachankulam

Nachankulam  is a small village south of a major town Tirunelveli in South Tamil Nadu.  It is a dry land. It falls on a rain shadow region with western ghats mountains to its west at a distance of around 20 Kms and bay of bengal to the east at around 40 Kms.  Rain fall is noted only in October and November.  It is surroundered by rain catchment ponds (kulam) on 3 sides which will be dry for most of the year. The ponds are either filled by rain water or by runoff water from western ghats which fill many many ponds before reaching here.  My plot, being just on the other side of one of the dry pond,  I believe should have plenty of ground water. I used to think for days keeping Google earth in front of me and zooming in and out imagining an underground river. I am not wrong, for the path that the invisible river traverses (which I guessed to be) has greenery all along its way upto the sea. This land falls on the border of that green belt.

I have no experience of purchasing a land. The sheer joy of getting a strech of land for my hard earned money kept me going. City dwellers think only in feet and cents. To think of a stretch measuring 100 cents is thrilling.  “This is YOUR land. Seeee over there upto that single palm tree, here upto that bund…” broker used to say, I nod my head with wide eyes.In scrotching sun, we used to go on two wheeler through bumpy roads. Me with a shoulder bag, Blackberry with GPS ON, Camera in Hand, my notebook and water bottle. Pillion riding with both hands busy taking photos, hearing broker commentry, juggling with my GPS and compass, trying to record coordinates and always fail. Sometimes a local broker would join with survey map in hand. I generally decide anything fast. Ask few questions and go for it and take any risk that comes on the way afterwards.I will be careful about lowerbound and upperbound nothing in between. There is a small sastha temple which was the only roof for shade in about 2 Kms radius. (That roof is also gone now by cyclone winds. More on that in another story).

Land has to be so chosen that it is near to your Native Place for all practical purposes. Though no help can be expected from your native, it gives an introduction, an address and local acceptance value for you.  The Villagers donot accept strangers so easily. For my project, I need cooperation of neighbourhood. The land also should be away from the vicinity of any industrial or developmental activities. It should be somewhere near the road so that you are not blocked off. The land must be cheap. Must be obtained from known broker as registration is a long drawn process, especially when you are purchasing and going to manager from remotely.

You need to travel many times if the land holdings are very small and belong to different families.Importantly a dry land in the interior will always come cheap. Affordable and least risk. But many of us start calculating the appreciation value, return on investment etc which is not relevant in farming ventures. I am not going to sell this anyway, it is for farming and hence have no worry about those things.  I have delibratly chosen an uncultivated land.

The following were my considerations in favour of choosing this one.

  1. Land is near to my native place. So whenever I go there I can drop into the farm.
  2. It is dry, but I hope there will be enough ground water. 3 ponds on either side,  rainwater from western ghats flowing undergoing to the sea and good rainfall during October, November should go in my favour.
  3. It is adjacent to a bird sanctury.  A tiger reserve forest at a commutable distance.  Nearby is a major ancient temple town called Nanguneri (Vanamamalai). In case I want to promote eco-tourism, I have some entertainment and purpose to show.
  4. Some central Govt projects are coming up at some distance which will bring migrant population who can become my customers later for my organic produce.
  5. Peaceful people in the neighbourhood. This is important given the facts that communal violance were very common in this part.

The following are risks that i have factored and some solutions.

  1. Being from non-agriculture background i may fail to raise crops and make profits. I need to find then an alternate use like growing agro forestory, promote eco tourism, build godown etc.
  2. For next few years i cannot live in the farm. I have to manage from 1000+ miles away.  Need to create a loyal local team and be liberal on video conferencing, skype and keep close followup.
  3. There can be spells of dry weather for long time destroying crops.  This is the fun part and a challenge that i need to work on. Presently I am atleast creating a micro-climate to bring some moisture in the area. that means keep planting anything that comes on the way.
  4. Family may disapprove the venture.  I need to keep them cool by alternate compensations…hmmmm let me think.
  5. Some litigation may come in land by either Government or Private parties.  I need to do some PR on Health and wellbeing in that area with Police, Taluk Office, Colletorate and Village panchayats.  There are some plans I will discuss later. 

Practical advise on Land purchase

Many a checklists have been published in various blogs about things to take care on land dealings, therefore i am not repeating them. However the following of mine could value add;

  1. Most (In fact all) of the small land dealings happen with cash. Remember someone is selling you because he is in need of cash. Therefore keep cash ready.  How you do this is a challenge. Keep in mind ATMS will fail when you want them.
  2. Broker may give surprises in last minute. Therefore 20% buffer is a must.
  3. Be prepared with registration charges and commission, tips along the way. Generally broker will not mention these at the beginning when mentioning the land value.
  4. Donot get into any land dealings if the link document is not original, not clear or not available. It may be possible that they have been mortgaged by the ower for a loan.
  5. Try and seek Sitta, Patta and Adangal if possible and cross verify the names.
  6. A single survey number may have multiple owners. THe land you are buying may be a part of that. Be aware of who is your neighbour.
  7. Try and seek survey measurement through Village Officer as soon as registration is over. Generally there will be delay as either VCO or Surveyor will not be available and may not give date to you. If you happen to be in outstation it makes all the more difficult.
  8. Be aware of holidays, local holidays, local festivals during which period they may be absent. Sometimes their computer will not work, there will be record keeping work which will add to delays.
  9. Under certain circumstances if you unable to travel and If you are willing to spend some money and take some risk, you can ask someone close to you to take power of attorney and later you can register when you visit. But oflate the rules have become more stringent and donot encourage this practice. Moreover there is a risk that you may ignore registring on your name and forget altogather.

In all I had to travel 12 times to register 28 small holds and make them into big 3 pieces. Let me call them A, B and C.  Only after purchase that I realised, contrary to the promises made by broker and his accomplice that B and C have very poor approach. There is no approach road, but you need to traverse through someone else’s land. My attempt to purchase small strip of land from my neighbour to approach B has failed. There is a family dispute on that land which they need to solve. Only then will one of the brother who has promised me will sell it. Till then, i can cultivate on B, but cannot frequent it with vehicles too often.

Well these are part of the game. If you had flown in a window seat and looked outside the window on a clear day, anywhere in India, you might have noticed acres and acres of farm underneath beside river beds, forests and mountain side. Does all of them have comfortable roads ?  There seems to be some understanding between the farmers. Let it prevail !.

For me A is near the road,  C has some approach, but not from A, but otherwise through a roundabout route.  There are four options for me.
  1. I donot worry and accept and proceed.  After all transportation through heavy vehicle is a very minuscule part of farming. Farming is do-able.
  2. Wait for someone to sell intermediate pieces of land so that I get comfortable contigeous space.
  3. Claim some approach road which is on revenue records, but no more visible on land. You need go appeal through petition etc. But that is not preferred now as it will lead to litigation with fellow farmers even before relationship is built
  4. The best option is to have some understanding, agreement with neighbours. Everyone has some need and you can always benefit each other mutually through adjustments.

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