Faridabad, New Delhi: In April 2015, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar offered Baba Ramdev the status of a state cabinet minister. Ramdev, a resourceful holy man for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling Haryana and the country, declined the offer. "Now, that PM is ours, entire Cabinet is ours, Haryana CM is ours and his Cabinet is ours, so let baba (an ascetic) remain a baba,” said Ramdev.

The trappings of power were redundant for Ramdev. He had already built his proximity to power through his strong electoral support to BJP and Narendra Modi. In turn, Ramdev and his Patanjali group benefited in Haryana from the BJP government’s policies in the state.

The proof is found in the forested lands of the Aravalli Range in Haryana.

Judicial records, policy papers and government records reveal a concerted effort from the Haryana government to ensure parts of these sensitive Aravalli Range do not get any protection. The state stonewalled two crucial Supreme Court orders of 1996 and 2022 that offered protection to these forests, the state deforestation laws and a Union government law that protects ecologically vital lands in and around Delhi.

The state’s dilly-dallying has helped lay the ground for a surreptitious real estate business that flourished in the forested land of Aravalli. Ramdev’s Patanjali Group, which sells Ayurveda, cosmetics, food and other fast moving consumer products through the front door, was one of the main beneficiaries – till date it has been discreetly buying and selling large tracts of land in the Aravalli through dubious entities and shell companies, documents studied by The Reporters’ Collective show.

We traced at least 14 companies and two trusts of Baba Ramdev’s empire that have traded in Mangar village. We found evidence of at least four of these 14 companies and one of the two trusts selling off the lands in Mangar to other corporations that are, by their own claims, real-estate dealers. 

Of these, 12 companies and one trust continue to hold parcels of forestlands in Mangar, which add up to at least 123 acres going by the latest land records of the Haryana state government. (See Table in Part 1 here)

Earlier reporting by the Business Standard has shown Ramdev’s companies owned lands in a different village, Kot, in Faridabad. And, also pointed to some of the Haryana government’s tricks that potentially benefit his holdings. The Collective’s investigation shows a wider land-owning empire that the yoga guru has spawned and how his empire moves monies among themselves. The investigation also reveals how an array of policy decisions by Haryana have aided such real-estate businesses in Faridabad, including that of the Patanjali group, make huge profits.   

A company is not required to explicitly state the profits it made by selling a particular plot of land in its annual corporate filings. However, we calculated it in one case by cross-referencing records of the real-estate firm that purchased the land against that of the Patanjali’s shell company that sold that property, Kankhal Ayurveda Private Limited. This gives a sense of the super-profits that were being amassed by Baba Ramdev’s empire discreetly.

We found that in just one land deal we could map, Kankhal Ayurveda received a whopping 365% profit. And, this is a shell company that has never done any business that its promoters, including Ramdev’s right hand man Acharya Balkrishna, have officially set the company up for. No other business of Baba Ramdev’s empire - that he talks up in public - is capable of generating such profit margins.

The map below represents Patanjali’s land holdings in Mangar village according to the latest revenue records (jamabandi) of the state online. Haryana has updated its digital land records up to 2018-19.

Revenue map of Mangar showing Patanjali group's land holdings.

The yellow dots on the map indicate the landholdings of Patanjali group-affiliated entities. The area coloured in light blue is regulated by The Punjab Land Preservation Act. The one in brighter green is formally designated forest and the one in brown is classified as ‘gair mumkin pahad’ or uncultivatable land. A majority of Patanjali group companies’ lands we mapped lie in this category - forestlands that the Haryana government has kept out of conservation laws, leaving it as grazing grounds for real-estate dealers.

How did we map it? The Collective accessed a revenue map of Mangar. This revenue map pins the exact location of hundreds of land plots. Then we trawled through the state digital land records to see who owns these hundreds of plots. From this we filtered out the lands owned by Patanjali’s firms. These were then geotagged on the revenue map individually to build the complete picture of Ramdev’s land ownings in Mangar through its web of shadow companies.

Cinderella's glass shoes

The Aravalli Hills, the oldest mountain range, runs northeast from Gujarat through Rajasthan into Haryana where it works as the lungs of Delhi.

Patanjali’s profitable land deals were aided by Haryana government’s consistent attempts to keep these vast swathes of land in the Aravalli off the list of recognised forests. Only about two-thirds of the Aravalli hills in Haryana are protected under Haryana’s conservation law, the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900. In Gurgaon and Faridabad, bordering Delhi, where the real estate market is booming, large tracts of forests have not been protected under this law. According to experts, an estimated 40% of the hills in Gurgaon and 36.8% in Faridabad are not notified as forests and remain legally unprotected.

The state achieved it by dragging its feet in implementing the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court.

Land in “gair mumkin pahad” or uncultivated forests and common lands classification had been under dispute over ownership and control. Until the 1960s, the land was classified as ‘common land’ where the ownership was vested with panchayats. Through a series of court orders, the land ownership was privatised. These privatised common lands have over the decades been sold off. 

In April 2022, the Supreme Court ordered the state to hand back common lands that have been privatised to panchayats. This order applied to Mangar’s forests as well. But the state’s revenue and panchayat departments, and the district administration have held back from implementing these orders. An activist has gone to the Haryana High Court to get the state government to act upon the Supreme Court orders. Legally, the state government is required to initiate the process of restoring lands to panchayats. It has not. 

As the potential forestlands of Aravallis were denied legal cover, Patanjali and other real-estate companies bought plots in these lands. They came cheap. Dispute over ownership always draws down the prices of lands. Typically powerful real-estate players pick these lands up, work the political-bureaucratic system, turn them into a bonanza and sell them for super profits. Patanjali Group, through its shell firms, became a significant player in these land deals.

Parallelly, the Haryana government continued to undermine another landmark Supreme Court order of 1996 asking the Union and state governments to identify and protect all of India’s forests.

The order re-emphasised what lands would be protected as forests under the Central Forest Conservation law. Under it, whether a government identified a patch of land as forest or not in its records, if it met the dictionary definition of a forest, it would be protected regardless of who owned the forest patch.

The “gair mumkin pahad” (uncultivatable forested lands) that Patanjali began buying up fell in this definition. But the Haryana government stonewalled the court order for 27 years, which ensured some of these ‘gair mumkin pahad’ land stayed clear of restrictions that forests attract and remained open for real estate developers.

Patanjali group shell firm Kankhal Ayurveda’s financials showing its lands in Mangar village.

The state government had other legal obligations to protect such ecologically sensitive hills and forests. One, it is required to bring these forests under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (still enforced in Haryana and comes from the era when Haryana was still part of Punjab). And, it is required to protect these forests under the ‘Natural Conservation Zone’, which the National Capital Region Planning Board implements under a Union government’s law. These two aim to curb deforestation and real-estate activities in demarcated areas.

Records show, Haryana has worked consistently over years to prevent large chunks of Aravalli forests from getting conserved under either of these two options as well.

The Punjab Land Preservation Act protects critical lands from deforestation and desertification. 

In May 2013, when the National Green Tribunal ordered that lands under the Punjab Act should be treated as forests and should get a higher level of protection under the Union government’s Forest Conservation Act, Haryana baulked. The state appealed in the Supreme Court, and claimed the NGT order would lead to havoc in Gurugram and Faridabad districts where urbanisation has taken root in the Aravalli Hills.

It contended large urban areas would get declared forests. The court caught it lying. Only 7.1% of the land of 22 districts in Haryana would be impacted, it concluded. 

The Supreme Court in a July 2022 order described the state’s exaggerated claims, setting the urban city dwellers against conservation, as “misleading and fallacious” and said that lands notified under the Punjab Land Preservation Act “have all the trappings of a forest” and would get the legal cover of the central forest conservation law.

However, even this order left out vast swathes of unrecognised forests in Haryana, which had not been notified under the Punjab Land Preservation Act. They include areas with scrub (read the gair mumkin pahads or uncultivatable lands that real estate firms or shell firms of Patanjali started gobbling up), open and dense forest cover, which experts say could have potentially been classified as ‘deemed forests’ or forests “as per dictionary meaning” following the Supreme Court order of 1996.  

In 2014, the Centre asked the Haryana government to delineate areas under the Natural Conservation Zone, which have to be conserved, and bring “deemed forests”, which are forests according to dictionary meaning, under them. Till then Haryana had not done its job of fixing parameters to demarcate such forests despite the 1996 Supreme Court order.

In 2015, Haryana government put these deemed forests in a unique  “status to be decided” category for the purpose of bringing them under conservation plans. This was disclosed in a previous investigation by The Collective. It can be read here.  

But their status was never decided.

Instead, the Haryana government was part of drafting a regional plan in 2021 that excluded the Aravalli hills from its “Natural Conservation Zone” category. This would lift curbs on construction that earlier regional plans had put in place. This category, meant to restrict commercial activities in green patches in the NCR, will no longer protect the Aravallis as the previous regional plan had.

We sent detailed questionnaires to the Haryana government, the Union government on their policies on conservation and to the Patanjali-linked companies involved in the land deals in Mangar, Faridabad. The state or the Union government hasn’t replied so far.

But this is not all. The deemed forests that were put in the “status to be decided” category have now lost their legal protection.

In 2023, the Union government amended the Forest Conservation Act, undermining the Supreme Court order of 1996. The latest amendments removed protection to the category “deemed forests”. The law will protect only areas that have been recorded as forests in government papers. This will leave out all the lands not covered under Punjab Land Preservation Act, which were put into the “status to be decided” category by Haryana while deciding the Natural Conservation Zone.

It brings a bounty to Patanjali group among others who have been amassing land under forests that lost the chance to be officially classified as such.


To understand the scale of potential jump in profit, let’s look into the corporate registry and land deal records of a Patanjali Group’s shell company -- Kankhal Ayurveda Private Limited -- that bought and sold lands, made superprofits and pumped the money into other Patanjali-linked firms.  

Kankhal Ayurveda was incorporated in August 2006 by Patanjali’s Acharya Balkrishna and Late Swami Muktananad. On paper, it was created to manufacture and sell ayurvedic, unani, homeopathic and allopathic medicines and cosmetics. But till now it hasn’t manufactured any stuff and yet got rich. 

In the initial years, Balkrishna directly and through other Patanjali-linked companies pumped money into Kankhal Ayurveda. Through these years, Kankhal Ayurved kept buying up lands in Mangar forests. The company auditors, going by company’s claims, reported that these lands had been bought for the “purpose of setting up of its industry where ayurvedic medicines and products will be manufactured.”

That was a lie. The company never set up the industry. Instead, it sold off most of this accumulated land to a real estate company and made a killing. The superprofits it made were then pumped into other companies linked to the shadowy Patanjali empire. Monies and investments into these companies then kept exchanging hands. 

Here are the details.

Kankhal Ayurveda steadily accumulated over 43 acres in Mangar between fiscal year 2009 and 2011. Then, in August 2011 it sold over 41 acres that it had bought for Rs 2.66 crore to Delhi-based construction company Topaz Propbuild Private Limited. Topaz’s balance sheet shows the land was sold for a whopping Rs 12.38 crore. The Patanjali zero-revenue firm made a killing of Rs 9.72 crore (a 365% profit). 

Patanjali groups's modus operandi

Topaz Propbuild, incorporated in 2008, is itself a zero-revenue firm with links to controversial Gurgaon realtor Ireo. It shares its registered address with Ireo Victory Valley Private Limited. Half of its shares are owned by Mayur Propmart Private Limited, which shares its registered address with Ireo Private Limited. In its first year of operations, the company received US $5,000 as share application money from a Mauritius-based fund linked to Ireo. 

Kankhal Ayurveda is just one of the shell firms that we studied. Most of the other Patanjali-linked entities we reviewed employed the same tactic for buying land in the Aravallis: shell and obscure companies linked to Patanjali, and mostly controlled and managed by Ramdev’s close business associates and younger brother, receive a slush of funds through investments, unsecured loans and other routes from related entities. 

While the auditors over years claimed that Kankhal Ayurveda was buying these lands to set up manufacturing plants, by FY 2022 the company held land worth only Rs 10,93,000 in Mangar village claiming it was for its “own use”. But it had built no other asset on top, like a factory, or bought even a chair as furniture to pretend it was in the business it claimed to be doing. 

Instead the company pumped the revenue it had generated from sale of lands into at least 16 other Patanjali-affiliated companies and also in one Nepal-based airlines company, called Guna Airlines. And bought yet more lands in other parts of India. Again, through the dubious route of making ‘advances’ to several individuals. It continues to own several tracts of land, as per the most recent corporate filings by the company. 

Detailed questions were also sent to Kankhal Ayurved  and the firms that advanced money to it. The emailed questionnaires were copied to Patanjali Ayurved Limited’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). S K Tijarawala, who acts as Baba Ramdev’s spokesperson and National Head of Aastha TV, was also copied on all the mails. 

We got uniform, copy-and-pasted responses from the companies. They copied their replies to the Patanajali Ayurved COO and Tijarawala on their boiler-plate responses, reaffirming that all these entities report to Ramdev’s Patanjali group and are not independent entities that just happen to be run by Ramdev’s friends and family.

They said that they had “undertaken the investment in accordance with the stipulations of the law” and had “diligently adhered to the applicable laws and regulations governing land acquisition to ensure full compliance.” (read the complete set of questions and the responses at the end of this story.) 

There is no public record of authorities having scrutinised these shell companies of Ramdev’s Patanjali group, set up to turbocharge its secret real estate business or financial transactions. The last time such land transactions by the Patanjali group had come under scrutiny was in 2012 when the Congress-led UPA government was in power at the Centre and Ramdev was going hammer and tongs after it for alleged corruption. 

By now, Patanjali group has seen a quantum leap in its fortunes concomitant with the rise of BJP in India’s political landscape. Its real-estate avatar remains hidden from the public. 

Aggam Walia, a former intern at The Reporters’ Collective, contributed to the research and reporting of this story.

(Read part 1 of the series here)