The Government of India is understandably, the largest landowner in the country. As per the information submitted by 41 of 51 Union ministries and 22 of over 300 public sector enterprises to the Centre, the government owns approximately 13,504 square km of land, reported Hindustan Times. The number is expected to rise as more data is provided by the remaining Union ministries and public sector enterprises. An official told HT that a part of this land which is nine times the size of Delhi could be used for housing and other infrastructure projects. Notably, the process of making a catalogue of the land was started last year by the government. Details of the land owned by the government is being uploaded to the Government Land Information System (GLIS). GLIS is a centralised database and is a first-of-its-kind. The database is created by the Ministry of Electronics and Information and is observed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The portal records total area, geo-positioning maps, and details such as ownership rights.
As per the information on GLIS, Railways is the biggest owner of land among Union ministries. The Railway ministry owns 31,063 land which is spread over 2,929 sq km. “Though the track record of the Railways, as well as other government agencies, on land asset management, is poor, data uploaded on the GLIS portal is easily verifiable (because of the level of details provided),” said an official from the Housing and Urban affairs ministry. Meanwhile, the defence ministry, which also has a large share of government land, has provided partial information of its ownership.
The ministry cited security concerns as the reason behind it providing partial details. It has uploaded data of about 383.62 sq km of its total land assets. In a 2010-11, a Comptroller and Auditor General report had pegged defence land holding at approximately 7,000 sq km.