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

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

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New Delhi: Contrary to the common belief that Waqf Boards are the second largest landowners, new research reveals that it is actually the Catholic Church of India. The church is now recognized as the country’s second-largest landowner after the Government of India. This revelation comes from data accessed through the Government Land Information website, which shows the church owns an astounding seven crore hectares (17.29 million acres) of land, valued at an estimated Rs 20,000 crore. This substantial holding has sparked discussions about its historical context, contemporary concerns, and implications for land management and community development.

The recently publicized data highlights the sheer extent and value of the Catholic Church’s land holdings, surpassing those of the Waqf Boards. While the government remains the largest property holder, the church’s expansive estates, encompassing churches, colleges, and schools, underline its significant presence across the nation.

The historical context of the church’s land acquisitions dates back to the Indian Church Act of 1927, during the pre-independence era. These acquisitions, however, have not been without controversy, with ongoing debates and accusations of forced acquisitions questioning the legitimacy of these assets.

Managed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the church’s properties are crucial to the welfare of communities nationwide, housing numerous educational and healthcare facilities. The church is a major contributor to the country’s education and healthcare systems, overseeing thousands of schools, colleges, and healthcare institutions.

Despite the church’s acknowledged contributions, questions persist regarding the management and utilization of land allocated to the Waqf Boards. There remains contention over these holdings, even after the government’s 1965 directives to recognize land grants from the British era. This highlights the ongoing need for improved compliance and resolution of these issues.