Big ‘Landlords’ of India’
Land prices in India are skyrocketing every day. In metropolitan cities there is very little land left for residence. According to a recent World Bank report, by the year 2030, India will need 40 to 80 lakh hectares of additional land to meet the housing needs of its citizens. In such a situation, there is sure to be more chaos for land in the coming days. Who is the biggest ‘landlord’ in India?

The direct answer to this is the Government of India. According to the data given on the website of Government Land Information System (GLIS), as of February 2021, the Government of India was the owner of about 15,531 square kms of land. This land is with 51 ministries and 116 public sector companies.

If one looks at ministry-wise figures, Railways has the maximum land. Indian Railways owns 2926.6 square kms of land across the country. After this comes the Ministry of Defence (Army) and Ministry of Coal (2580.92 square kms). Ministry of Energy is at fourth place (1806.69 square kilometres), Heavy Industries is at fifth place (1209.49 square kms of land) and Shipping is at sixth place (1146 square kms of land).

The Catholic Church of India acquired a large amount of land after the Indian Churches Act of 1972, the foundation of which was once laid by the British government. The British would lease out the land they captured after the war to Churches at cheap rates, so that they could spread Christianity. After the central government, the Catholic Church has the most land.

The Catholic Church reportedly runs 14429 schools-colleges, 1086 training institutes, 1826 hospitals and dispensaries across the country. The total land value of the Catholic Church is more than Rs 1 lakh crore.

Waqf Board is at third place in terms of land. The Waqf Board is an autonomous institution formed under the Waqf Act of 1954. It operates thousands of mosques, madrasas and graveyards across the country and owns these lands. The Waqf Board has at least more than 6 lakh immovable properties (Waqf Land). They got most of the Waqf lands and properties during the Muslim rule.
A Correspondent, News 18

Discrimination in Prisons
In response to the petition filed by journalist Sukanya Shantha, alleging caste-based discriminations in prisons; the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Union government and eleven states. Notices have been issued to states including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Odisha, Jharkhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.

The plea alleges that caste-based discrimination persists in prison barracks, extending to manual labour assignments, and adversely impacting denotified tribes and those categorised as habitual offenders.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra recognised the gravity of the raised issue and summoned Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta to assist the court in addressing it.

The petition seeks the repeal of discriminatory provisions found in various state prison manuals. Senior Advocate S Muralidhar, representing the petitioner, highlighted instances where Dalits are segregated into separate prisons, while individuals from other castes are held in different areas.

“Such discrimination based on caste exists from the moment one enters the prison,” he added. The petition sought the removal of discriminatory provisions in the prison manuals.

The Court, having acknowledged the gravity of the issue, called upon Solicitor General to assist in addressing the matter, emphasising the need for joint efforts in tackling the unacceptable situation. SG Mehta condemned the situation as ‘unacceptable’ and stressed the necessity for collaborative efforts to address it.

Climate Migrants
Millions of Bangladeshis are projected to be internally displaced due to environmental disasters in the coming years. Climate-induced migration is presenting huge challenges for the country's already overcrowded cities.

Mahima Begum moved to the port town of Mongla in south western Bangladesh after a natural disaster struck her village and destroyed the home her father had built.

The 32-year-old is one of the millions of people in the South Asian country who have been forced to relocate due to climate-related disasters.

Historically, migrants have made their way to the country's capital, Dhaka. But the city is already one of the most overcrowded places on Earth and it's poorly equipped to accommodate the waves of people moving from climate-impacted areas of the country into urban centres, seeking residence and employment.

Mongla, located around 30 miles (50 kms) from the Bay of Bengal, is emerging as an alternative for climate-displaced people.

The town's seaport and export processing zone have turned it into an economic and employment hub, attracting people from parts of Bangladesh ravaged by environmental disasters.
Rafiqul Montu, DW

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Vol 56, No. 30, Jan 21 - 27, 2024