Catholic Church Surpasses Waqf Board as India’s Second Largest Landowner

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Recent data reveals the Catholic Church’s extensive holdings valued at Rs 20,000 crore

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Recent findings gleaned from the Government Land Information website have brought to light a surprising revelation regarding land ownership in India. Contrary to previous assumptions, the Catholic Church of India now stands as the country’s second-largest landowner, trailing only behind the government itself. The Church’s vast land holdings, estimated at a staggering seven crore hectares (17.29 crore acres) with a total value of approximately Rs 20,000 crore, have sparked discussions on historical context, controversies, and the implications for land management and community development.

The data, unveiled this week, sheds light on the scale of the Catholic Church’s land portfolio, surpassing even the Waqf Board in terms of sheer size and value. While the government maintains its position as the largest landholder, the church’s extensive properties, including churches, schools, and colleges, signify its significant presence across the nation.

The historical context surrounding the church’s land acquisitions dates back to the pre-independence era, with substantial grants received under the Indian Church Act of 1927. However, these acquisitions have not been without controversy, with allegations of forceful acquisition frequently raised, prompting ongoing disputes over the legitimacy of these holdings.

Managed under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and utilised for educational and healthcare institutions, the church’s land assets play a crucial role in serving communities nationwide. With thousands of schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities under its administration, the church contributes significantly to the country’s education and healthcare sectors.

However, amidst the acknowledgment of the church’s contributions, concerns persist regarding the management and utilisation of land designated for the Waqf Board. The government’s directives issued in 1965 aimed at recognising land grants from the British era have not fully resolved disputes over these holdings, highlighting the need for enhanced compliance and resolution of ongoing controversies.

In response to the revelations, voices across various sectors emphasise the importance of transparent and equitable land management practices. While acknowledging the Catholic Church’s role in education and healthcare, stakeholders stress the necessity of ensuring proper utilisation of land resources for the development and empowerment of all communities, including the Muslim community served by the Waqf Board.

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