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India has enormous public wealth. This is the wealth that is owned by the people and controlled by the government. The Union, State and local governments in India own massive amount of wealth directly or through various public-sector enterprises, ownership of mineral resources, control of airwaves, and ownership of marine resources within territorial waters of India.[1]

Breakup of Dhan Vapsi Fund
Resource Value (₹ lakh crore) Value per household (₹)
Surplus Public Land 340 13,60,000
Natural Resources 1,001 40,04,000
Hydrocarbon 302 12,08,000
Mines & Minerals 678 27,12,000
Radioactive Substances 21 84,000
Value of Dhan Vapsi Fund as on February 2018 ₹ 1,341 lakh crore ₹ 53,64,000
Durtion Dhan Vapsi Fund can last 53 Years

Only the mineral resources of India have been estimated to be worth more than ₹5000 lakh crores of wealth according to analysts. This sum is equivalent to over ₹40 lakh per person in India.[2] Apart from that, there are thousands of acres of land parcels controlled by the government. By our estimates, the known public wealth of India is over ₹1590 lakh crore, which equals to over ₹50 lakh per Indian family[3]. This figure is from a very conservative estimate of the wealth of the people. We have taken only 25% of the mineral wealth of the country to arrive at this figure. In addition, the undiscovered public wealth of India is yet to be categorised and valued. Except for Defense and Railways, most other ministries and departments of the Union Government do not even know how much of land and resources they own [4]. While some of the public resources are being used to support essential government services, most of them are lying idle across the nation due to gross misuse and poor management.

All governments in India, be it central, state, or local, have contributed to the degradation of resources belonging to the people. When millions of our compatriots live in abject poverty, such a situation is unacceptable. It is important to note that even though public wealth includes common resources such as roads, government offices, airports, etc. we have not included those resources in the Public Wealth Wiki.


Historically, the ownership of public wealth belonged to the kings in India and most other parts of the world by the invocation of the divine rights or through means of coercion. Presently, the rights over the public wealth belong to the democratically elected Indian government, which is obligated under the constitution to use this wealth for public good.[5]

Ancient India

In ancient India, even though the Kings represented the State, the mineral wealth did not vest in them. They were only entitled to receive the taxes or revenue form the production or extraction of minerals.[6] Simultaneously, the ownership of other public resources such as forests and water bodies were shared by the community which relied on them. However, the ownership of mineral resources gradually transferred to the state beginning with the empire of Chandragupta Maurya, particularly as Kautilya[7] justified state monopoly over mineral resources in his seminal work Arthasastra.[8] The ownership of resources other than minerals, such as forests and water bodies, continued to be with the kings or the community in one form or the other across India till the arrival of the British East India Company.

British India

The British East India Company started using the power of the state to acquire private property[9] for public use as early as 1824 in Bengal and other parts of India. The Bengal Regulation I of 1824 allowed the Company to obtain private properties by paying a fair price for construction of “roads, canals, or other public purposes”[10] when the Company only had limited rights related to taxation and trade as per the powers bestowed on it by the British Crown. Thus, all acquisitions conducted under the Bengal regulation and similar laws in other parts of India were patently illegal until 1857 when the British Crown took over control of India. Following that, the British acquired most of the natural and mineral resources of India; either by acquisition with meagre compensation or by coercion. Concurrently with the British rule, different princely states in India adopted similar policies with respect to the ownership of public wealth. While some states adopted the state’s ownership of public wealth, others bestowed the ownership to the community. Some states neglected the issue altogether and adopted a non-property attitude towards public wealth and kept it as commons[11], particularly in case of forests and water bodies.

Modern India

The Constitution of India bestows the ownership and control over using resources is in hands of the central and state governments under various articles. However, individuals and corporations can make use of the public resources under a license from the government. Since independence, there has been no concrete effort by the central or the state governments to define public wealth or regulate the same in a meaningful manner, instead the governments have chosen to deal with the issue on an ad-hoc basis. Noting the same, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, while announcing the judgment on 2G scam in 2012, observed – “no comprehensive legislation has been enacted to generally define natural resources and a framework for their protection.”[12] Given the constitutional provisions, the Indian state is the trustee and legal owner of the public wealth of India under the doctrine of public trust, which "enjoins upon the Government to protect the resources for the enjoyment of the public rather than to permit their use for private ownership or commercial purposes".[13] Natural resources belong to the people, but the State legally owns them on our behalf.

Public Wealth of India

Public wealth is the sum of the public assets collectively owned by all citizens of the country. The government is the manager of this public wealth. It comprises of public commercial assets under the government, such as various natural resources, public sector undertakings (PSUs) and commercial real estate. The term public consists of wealth owned by all the levels of government namely, central, state, and local levels. Public assets do not comprise public property, which refers to assets and resources that are available to the entire public for use, such as roads and bridges, public parks, protected wildlife sanctuaries. Public wealth consists of assets or operations generating an income that could be given some kind of market value if properly structured and used. Typical examples include:

  • minerals
  • real estate such as Lutyens Bungalow Zone (New Delhi), Navy Nagar (Mumbai)
  • central and state public sector enterprises
  • financial institutions
  • land banks available with various state land development authorities and in special economic zones (SEZs)
  • land and buildings under the government for provision of non-essential functions [14].

The total public wealth recorded from publicly available information is ₹ 1,341 lakh crore (₹ 53,64,000 per household [15]) as on October 2018.


Land among capital, labour and entrepreneurial skills is one of the four fundamental resources that determines the size and productivity of an economy. Land in India is suffering from an artificial scarcity created out of a high cost of acquisition from excessive regulations. Major urban land parcels are lying vacant and unused locking valuable land available in the market. The following calculation points out there is ample land available in the country –

If one places 1.2 billion people in four-person homes of 1000 square feet each, and two workers of the family into office/factory space of 400 square feet, this requires roughly 1 per cent of India's land area assuming an FSI of 1. [16]

Yet the price of land in a city like Mumbai or Delhi is much more compared to cities like New Jersey. The government owned land is part of the problem. An estimate holds that governments own as much as __ per cent of total available land in the country [IDF report pick the number/ idea]. This keeps away productive land from falling into private hands for generating revenue and employment. Government bodies like Bombay Port trust own as much as ___ acre of prime property in Mumbai. Bombay port Trust has no land records for ____ amount of property owned by them.

Table 2 and Table 3 point out the surplus land available with various governmnet bodies owned by central and state governments.

Table 2: Surplus Public Land Under Central Government
# Body Name Area (acre) Value (₹ crore)
1 Air India NA[17] 8,000
2 Railways 6,407 2,70,406
3 Defence 296,914 24,53,664
4 Department of Posts 1,146 366
5 Delhi Development Authority 5,675 1,00,000
6 Heavy Engineering Corporation 5,000 14,560
8 Hindustan Machines and Tools Ltd. 471 997
9 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) 2,982 6,140
10 Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd 938 20,224
11 National Textile Corporation 1,158 25,622
12 Port Trusts 27,379 20,02,717
13 Richardson & Cruddas 76 9,824
14 Steel Authority of India Limited 29,008 58,149
15 Lutyens Bungalow Zone 6,177 19,32,683
Total X acre ₹ 68.62 lakh crore

Table 3: Surplus Public Land Under State Governments
# Body Name Area (acre) Value (₹ crore)
1 Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board 5,675 48,480
2 Punjab Urban Development Authority 7,337 14,848
3 Karnataka Public Land Corporation Limited 474 6,000
4 State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakahnd Limited 2,016 3,988
5 Rajasthan State Industrial Investment and Corporation Limited 1,150 2,645
6 Assam Industrial Development Corporation 471 2,350
7 Haryana Revenue Department 674 1,414
8 Haldia Development Authority 624 730
9 Ranchi Industrial Area Development Authority 184 630
10 Bihar Industrial Area Development Auhtority 144 285
11 Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority 73 150
12 Odisha Revenue Department 5,40,725 217.95
13 Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation 1,508 3,038
14 Maharashtra Dairy Development Department 3,198 8,11,000
15 Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation 7,540 4,485
16 Special Economic Zones 72,847 1,47,401
17 Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority 75 1,320
18 Gujarat State Warehousing Corporation 33 67
19 Delhi Gram Sabha 622 1,18,453
20 Haryana Irrigation Department 2,421 4,899
Total X acre ₹ 19.76 lakh crore


The total value of the mineral resources of the country is estimated to be ₹5000 lakh crore. However, this number is highly conservative. The central or state governments do not have a dedicated database which lists all the resources under their control with the appropriate market values. The number also excludes the unexplored resources and spectrum under control of our governments. The number was calculated by using data available in the public domain by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, a public-policy think tank based in New Delhi. [18] The calculation only includes –

  • Stocks of hydrocarbons in the country such as coal, lignite, crude oil, natural gas, etc.
  • Major mined and mineral resources stock in the country. [19]

According to an estimate by Schlumberger in 2015, India holds a minimum of 300 trillion cubic feet (Tfc) of gas and oil resources. An estimate of US Geological Survey reveals that India might be the world's second-largest holder of gas hydrate reserves. The total amount of reserves that India has can be between 300 and 2,100 (Tfc) as per the estimate by Schlumberger in 2015.
According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the total 4.67 billion cubic meter (BCM) of natural gas was produced by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Oil India Company (OIC) and Private Joint Ventures in the year 2017-18. These companies have been producing natural gas from fields/blocks located in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. The total balance recoverable reserve of natural gas is about 198 BCM in North-Eastern states. [20]

[21] Mineral Wealth of India
# Mineral Total Reserve (tonne) Value (₹ crore) Price (₹ thousand/ tonne) Method of Pricing (₹ crore)
1 Antimony 1 lakh 490 518 Export Parity
2 Asbestos 22.2 million 350 62,875 Import Parity
3 Barytes 73 million 5.2 38066 Export Parity
4 Betonite 568 million 26.6 15,10,969 Export Parity
5 Borax 74.2 thousand 20.2 150 Import Parity
6 Calcite 20.94 million 4.7 9782 Import Parity
7 Chromite 203 million 16.5 3,35,934 Export Parity
8 Copper 1.56 billion 45.3 70,69,237 Export Parity
9 Diamond 31.92 million 0.207/carat 661 Export Parity
10 Diaspore 5.98 million 1 598 Export Parity
11 Diatomite 2.9 million 8.9 2,554 Export Parity
12 Dolomite 7.7 billion 2.3 17,55,856 Import parity
13 Felspar 132 million 3.4 44,595 Export Parity
14 Fireclay 713.5 million 2.5 1,80,923 Export Parity
15 Fluorite 18.2 million 9.8 17,878 Export Parity
16 Fuller Earth 256.7 million 3.4 87,786 Average Cost
17 Garnet 56.96 million 7.5 42,762 Export Parity
18 Granite 116 billion 12.3 14,29,39,709 Export Parity
19 Gold 493.69 million 1920/kg 9,48,59,391 Average Cost
20 Graphite 174.85 million 32 560591 Import Parity
21 Gypsum 1.2 billion 1.3 1,71,950 Export Parity
22 Titanium 394 million 5.1 2,01,376 Export Parity
23 Iron Ore (Hematite) 17.9 billion 4.6 81,76,992 Export Parity
24 Iron (Magnetite) 10.6 billion 4.6 48,42,241 Export Parity
25 Kyanite 103.24 million 13.6 1,40,480 Export Parity
26 Sillimanite 66.98 million 11.4 76,201 Export Parity
27 Andalusite 18.5 million 2.4 4,440 Export Parity
28 Lead & Zinc 685.6 million 22.6 15,50,625 Export Parity
29 Limestone 184.9 bilion 0.136 25,08,236 Average Cost
30 Magnesite 335 million 8.7 2,92,824 Export Parity
31 Manganese 288 million 0.709 20,431 Export Parity
32 Marble 1.93 billion 1.2 2,25,475 Average Cost
33 Mica 5.3 lakh 17.7 942.6 Export Parity
34 Molybdenum 19.3 million 11.7 22,627.2 Export Parity
35 Nickel 189 million 1,000 1,88,41,797 Export Parity
36 Ochre 144.26 million 12 1,74,869 Export Parity
37 Platinum 15.7 70 /kg 109 Export Parity
38 Potash 21.8 billion 20 4,34,08,755 Export Parity
39 Quartz and Silica 3.5 billion 5.6 19,72,584 Export Parity
40 Quartizite 1.25 billion 30 37,35,119 Import Parity
41 Silver 467 million 37/kg 17,12,471 Average Cost
42 Talc/Steatite/Soapstone 270 million 6 1,61,744 Export Parity
43 Tin 83.73 million 0.152/kg 12,72,696 Average Cost
Total ₹ 33,90,35,819.8 crore


Land values and Floor Space Index

The Floor Space Index (FSI) is the ratio between the area of a covered floor space (built-up area) to the area of that plot on which a building stands. An index of 1 implies that the total covered floor space is 1000 Sq. Ft. on a plot of 1000 Sq. Ft. The Floor Space Index in New Delhi ranges from 1.2 to 3.5 meaning that 1200 to 3500 Sq. Ft. of floor space is available for every 1000 Sq. Ft. plot there. All the value of unused public land is calculated based on the FSI value of 1. The rates for the land have been calculated according to the prevailing rates of rural, semi-urban, and urban land in the country.


The estimated values of the mineral resources are based on a detailed study done by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, a think-tank based in New Delhi, in 2014. The author of the report has mentioned that he calculated the value of minerals based on the information from the public domain from various governmental and non-governmental agencies.


The data on the unused public lands was collected by researchers at Free A Billion from authoritative governmental and non-governmental sources. These sources include Parliamentary Questions, data collected by various NGOs and think-tanks, government databases, information available from various Ministries and Departments of the Government of India.


  1. Article 297, Constitution of India, 1950
  2. Kundu, S. (2014). A Note on the Estimated Value of Government-Owned Natural Resources in India. New Delhi: Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from
  3. Assuming that an average Indian family has 5 members. That is 20 percentage points above the average household size in India as per the 2011 Census.
  4. Debroy, Bibek. "All the Sarkar's Land." The Indian Express. November 13, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2018.
  5. Article 39 (b) states – “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing ... (b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good.”
  6. Indian Bureau of Mines. (2011). Mineral Royalties. Nagpur: Indian Bureau of Mines.
  7. Ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist, and royal advisor, 371-283 BC.
  8. Supra, Note 5.
  9. The power of “Eminent Domain” – Forceful acquisition or requisition of property by the government for public purpose.
  10. Bhattacharyya, D. (2015). History of Eminent Domain in Colonial Thought and Legal Practice. Economic & Political Weekly, L (50), 46.
  11. Cultural or natural resource accessible to all members of the society.
  12. Centre for Public Interest Litigation and others v. Union of India and others, (2012) 3 SCC 1
  13. M. C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath (1997)1 SCC 388
  14. Non-essential functions are those that are not directly connected with the maintenance of law and order, and national security.
  15. No. of households – 25 crore (125 crore population [Census 2011] / 5 [size of a household as per GoI])
  16. Shah A, Economic Times ‘’ Why real estate is a bad long term investment’’
  17. Information on the total land held by Air India is not known, however its approximate value is made available in the financial reports
  18. Supra Note 4.
  19. Ibid. page 2.
  20. "Gas Reserves in Assam and Other North-Eastern States." Press Information Bureau Government of India Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. August 1, 2018.
  21. Kundu Sridhar,[ "A Note on the Estimated Value of Government-Owned Natural Resources in India "], CBGA, 2014, Table III