The Locked Wealth of Indians

Just look around you. In every neighbourhood in every city, the government controls prime property. From Lutyens Delhi which houses the ministers in hundreds of bungalows each of which cost nothing less than Rs 500 crore to the public sector units which have vacant land everywhere to the defence forces which have occupied prime territory across India since colonial times – each acre of this land is part of the anti-prosperity machine.

Their occupation combined with deliberate policies which limit supply of other land force real estate prices in cities to sky-high levels. This makes us either pay more for our homes or spend more time and money travelling to work in substandard public transport.

Why cannot this misused, abused, unused and underused land be released for productive purposes? Why should FSI (floor space index) be artificially constrained? Why cannot the space above and around railway and metro stations be monetised, as has been done in cities like Hong Kong? Why should government offices and homes be located in prime areas? Do our Governors really need to live like their British predecessors? People live in barely a few hundred square feet of space, even as past and present ministers are given massive bungalows of prime property.

The public wealth of India

The money from the monetisation of this land must be returned to the people – they are after all the rightful owners. Nayi Disha has estimated that just the value of land controlled by the government across India is worth at least Rs 2.5 lakh per person, or about Rs 12.5 lakh per family of five.

Besides the wealth locked up in land, the mineral wealth of India is worth at least another Rs 8 lakh per person, or about Rs 40 lakh per family. Taken together, the land and mineral wealth comes to over Rs 10 lakh per person, or about Rs 50 lakh per family.

Even as Indians struggle to make ends meet, are denied a decent education, have limited career opportunities, governments sit on the people’s wealth, and consigns them to a sub-standard life. Is this not the greatest tragedy that is facing Indians? Should this not make our blood boil? Should we not rise and demand that our wealth be returned to us? Shouldn’t we and every Indian family have a fair chance at prosperity?

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