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Throughout human history, land has always been synonymous with power. Mongol empire, considered the greatest empire in human history, covered an area of 24,000,000 km2 (16% of earth’s total land area) at its greatest extent. Ones with bigger territories are the biggest kings.
If you’ve ever wondered who the kings of Mumbai are, read on !
Colonial Era kings
The roots of our story date back to the British Era where land was gifted as a reward for ‘loyalty’ to attract people. Parsis, who were mainly the traders and middlemen at that time, had acquired large profits from this generosity and through canny investments in real estate market they accumulated large amounts of assets which were passed on through generations till today. Presently Mumbai is the most populous city in India and the fourth most populous in the World with an average density of 20,694/km2. For Mumbaikars, the quest for a roof on top of their heads is never ending. But there are a few fortunate families with considerably large chunks of this golden cake in their pockets acquired hereditarily. Research shows that most of these gold-plated chunks are not quite yielding under the pressure of land mafias and encroachment. Though some trusts have gained profits from owned lands, many families have lost their valuable land under the Coastal Regulation Zone.
Privately owned land in Mumbai
Of 99,319 acres of Mumbai almost 7000 acres are owned by Mumbai’s top 10 private families/trusts, as estimated by Economic Times. Collectively, 21 largest private bodies of Mumbai own about 10% of the total city.
- Godrej Industries Pvt. Ltd. is the largest private single landholder in Mumbai today with holdings of nearly 2,000 acres of mangroves at Vikhroli on the east of the Eastern Express Highway. It established itself in real estate as Godrej Properties Ltd. in 1990 and has undertaken many constructions in more than 12 cities in India. In Mumbai, they have taken up many successful projects including Godrej Platinum at Vikhroli East close to their mangroves. However, Godrej is fighting to claim the title of the land in court since mid-70’s. Even if Godrej wins the case, a considerable part of it, which is along the Thane creek, falls under the CRZ and cannot be developed upon.Godrej Industries Pvt. Ltd. – Largest private single landholder in Mumbai
- Next is FE Dinshaw estate. Framroze Edulji Dinshaw was the son of a Karachi landowner and most prominent businessmen of his times. He took over his father’s assets in Mumbai and expanded for his next generations. By 2002, FE Dinshaw estate was the largest privately owned land in Mumbai with 2,200 acres of western suburbs between Malad and Borivali. The FE Dinshaw Charities trust, founded after he died in 1936, holds another 278 acres mainly in Malad. However, a lot of its land has fallen prey to encroachment and land mafias.
- Another classic example of British generosity is the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Properties Limited, which is the 5th largest landholder in Mumbai. Sir Byramjee Jeejeebhoy, a 19th century philanthropist, was gifted by East India Company a total of 12,000 acres of land between Bandra and Borivali in 1830. Over the past 40 years huge tracts of his land are sold off to builders or gave up to the government for infrastructure development.
- Others include A.H.Wadia trust and builders like the Ajmeras, the Hiranandanis and the Rahejas.
JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust)
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust is the unanimous topper of the public land holding lists with 2,000 acres. All the land and water area between Colaba and Navi Mumbai, which is nearly one-eighth of Mumbai, falls under JNPT. Keeping in view the acute shortage of land, the port trust has developed efficient land use schemes and have encouraged development of city’s infrastructure on a large scale. It has given up half of the land to MMRDA for development of Wadala Truck Terminus, aimed at decongesting South Bombay, and Mahul Link Road. It has also approved to development of MTHL with concessional rents on another 25% of its area. It also agreed to consider the elevation of Eastern Island Highway through its estate. JNPT now wishes to reclaim land between Colaba and Navi Mumbai to improve the infrastructure projects which is receiving serious oppositions from political parties and environmentalists.
Even after the disintegration of mill culture in Mumbai, NTC mill still has 1,377 acres of land in Central Mumbai after selling most of its property to private builders. The central and state institutions of Life Insurance Corporation of India, Income Tax offices and banks hold most of slum areas of Dharavi. CBI has 5,000 sq metres at Bandra-Kurla complex.
Unused Spaces in Mumbai
Most of the above stated lands are unused vacant spaces for various reasons. While some may fall under CRZ others are reserved by the government for open spaces and recreational activities. Around 135 acres of salt pan lands are spread in and around Mumbai under Ministry of Urban Development of India. If approved, these salt pans could be used by state government and private sectors for more infrastructure development. According to senior officials of Railways, the central and western railways have huge unused lands around CST and Bandra which could fetch up to 30 acres of land for development. Collectively, over 66% of vacant lands are still present in the city under the State and Private sectors.