The central government is trying to find out just how much land it owns so that idle tracts can be put to use to generate revenues.
It’s early days for the mammoth exercise, but initial data show 31 of 52 central ministries together own 16,701 sq km of land, or 11 times the size of Delhi. This excludes big land-owning ministries, such as the railways and defence, which are yet to provide data.
The Prime Minister’s Office is monitoring the project, which will be complete by early next year.
The potential of such a land bank is far-reaching, given that the government needs large tracts for urbanisation, including developing 100 smart cities. China, for example, has monetised land to fund infrastructure projects.
Some states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat have taken baby steps towards it.
“It’s a good beginning. Once the government has an inventory of how much land asset it has and fixes its value, it can leverage it to raise resources effectively for developing its cities, funding infrastructure projects, etc,” said Arun Maira, a former member of now-defunct Planning Commission.
In 2014, an inter-ministerial panel suggested for the first time that the government measure its land. After this, a land inventory committee was then set up under Shaktikanta Das, the economic affairs secretary. The urban development ministry is the coordinating agency for the exercise. The Centre’s land holding will go up substantially once the remaining ministries, including defence and railways, submit their details. A 2010-11 federal audit report pegged the defence ministry’s land holding at 7000 sq. km. The railways are said to own 4,750 sq. km.
Only eight central ministries have so far provided details of their land ownership on Government Land Information System, a web portal created to collate the ministries-wide data.