Column : Time to encash govt’s land bank
The biggest landlords among the central government departments are defence (with about 17.53 lakh acres) and the Railways (with about 10.5 lakh acres). The major ports have about 2.58 lakh acres, including prime urban land in Mumbai and Kolkata and vast areas in Kutch. Several other departments and public sector undertakings also own unused or under-utilised land.
The earliest rules governing defence land are of 1925, with several subsequent notifications on the use of various categories of land for various purposes. The Indian Railways has set up the Rail Land Development Authority with the primary objective of commercially developing vacant railway land, and thereby raising revenue through a non-tariff measure. The shipping ministry has issued land policy guidelines to the major ports.
The rules and guidelines are regulatory in nature. There has been no planned action for generating value from government land. Even the Railways has achieved only nominal success despite creating a separate statutory authority for the development of land. There are several issues associated with the transfer of ownership or possession of government land
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