World over, land ownership was and is still considered to be a symbol of power and prestige. History is proof that many a battle have been fought and empires lost merely in the quest of additional land.
On one hand, land has been at the centre of man's progress, given that it has been used for building homes, places of worship and establishments like factories and educational institutions. On the other, there have been a number of controversies, scams and property battles surrounding this much-coveted entity. Land assumes all the more importance in a country like India that is spread over a massive area of nearly 32,87,590 square kilometers.
Yet, in the end, be it a monarch or a 'mango' man, every one is seeking his or her piece of land.
The big question is: can there be ever be enough land for everyone, or even one person? Apparently not. So, to give you an idea, we have compiled an indicative list of India's largest landowners in terms of size and assumed value. Indicative, because of the number of limitations in terms of data availability and transparency surrounding the issue. And while we are certainly not talking of politicians here, whose web of 'nami' and 'benami' properties might even eclipse the good ol' Queen. The list is not exhaustive and newer names could be added or a few existing ones omitted. In the end, some may surprise you, while others may amuse you. Read on:
-- While not an individual, yet important to mention that the government is by far the largest landowner in India. With holdings estimated to be upwards of Rs 114,000 crore according to some old estimates, the Indian state has a lot of land under its purview. The railway and defense ministries collectively own hold a large part of these land holdings.
-- An interesting name to feature in this list is the Catholic Church. Apparently, the religious institution owns the largest portion of India's non-agricultural land.
-- Kushal Pal Singh, chairman and CEO of real estate major DLF Limited, is one of the largest private owners of land in India. His name has also appeared in the Richest Indian list compiled by Forbes in the past.
-- Godrej Industries in Mumbai has holdings of nearly 2,000 acres of mangroves in suburban Vikhroli. The company is the largest private single landholder in Mumbai and also one of India's fastest-growing real estate developers.
-- Businessman Nusli Wadia has huge pockets of land in Mumbai in his capacity as chief promoter Bombay Dyeing Group. Besides, he also has large holdings as promoter-trustee of the FE Dinshaw Trust that too owns large tracts of land.
-- Shapoorji Pallonji Group, a Mumbai-based business conglomerate, has acres and acres of land in Mumbai and is one of the country's biggest landowners. Promoters of this group are the largest individual shareholders in Tata Sons. The company was founded by Shapoor Mistry, whose grandson Cyrus is chairman of Tata Group.
And while there may be paucity of real data in the Indian context, there is no such limitation when it comes to internationally. The list as usual comprises of royalty and business tycoons. Here's a quick look at the some of the largest landowners globally:
-- American media mogul Ted Turner owns huge stretches of land in the United States and Argentina. What's better is that he wants to conserve most of it into gated forests and wildlife sanctuaries
-- Queen Elizabeth II owns billions of acres of land globally including Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and Australia.
-- Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa of Qatar owns the whole country. You read it right, the whole country.
-- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has absolute control over the oil-rich nation. And by that logic, the monarch is one of the largest landowner. So, what if most of it is desert, as long as there are oil wells underneath.