Friday, October 26, 2007

Thanks the army for some lung space

Defending land comes easy to the army. But the government would like it to part with some for development work. S Nandagopal reports on the stand-off between the people and army

Bangalore: At a time when the IT hub is facing a severe dearth of land for infrastructure projects including widening of roads, flyovers and expressways and housing, all eyes are on the large tracts of army land in the heart of the city.
Thanks to numerous defence establishments in pockets of Bangalore, the city continues to have muchneeded lung spaces. But some projects have been stuck midway due to non-availability of defence lands. These projects cut through defence properties and has led to a stand-off between civic agencies and defence authorities. While civic bodies complain of projects are getting jinxed because of the army’s non-cooperation, the latter’s contention is that they are not compensated sufficiently by government.
It’s a rather tricky situation for the defence forces. Their land is coming under pressure from all quarters — encroachments are shrinking the land, some are being requisitioned by the government for development projects like road widening, flyovers and the Metro Rail. According to Sub Area Commander, Karnataka and Kerala, Brig. Clement Samuel, the army has realised that parting with its land was not possible since the establishments themselves didn’t have enough land. The army has 4,435 acres under its holdings and needs about 3,000-plus acres. “Often, no proper compensation is given by the government agencies for our land. Unfortunately, Bangalore does not come under the Cantonment Act. Moreover, our holdings are spread across the city in small pockets. Hence watch and ward of the land becomes a big problem,’’ Brig Samuel said.
Given the situation on the ground, there is a civilian-army conflict due to rampant urbanisation. A case in point is the Iblur firing range which is close to some sectors of the HSR Layout. The army contends that despite knowing about the explosives training at the camp, the BDA carved a layout and permitted residential and commercial constructions close to it.
Every time there is firing activity in the camp, doors and windows of the houses rattle and some houses close to the camp have even started developing cracks. The stand-off continues even to this day. While the government wants the firing camp to be relocated, the defence authorities argue that they had occupied the place before the layout was formed.
The bickering does not end there. “As part of our social obligation, we have given land for road-widening projects and Metro Rail work on Hosur Road, Airport Road and MG Road. The government has been requesting for more land but seldom talks of suitable compensation in form of alternative lands. If BDA ensures proportionate land, we could part with some,’’ Brig. Samuel said. The crucial questions still remain. Should the defence forces give land for public good? Or should land use be restricted for any use as they are the few lung spaces around?
Army land holdings: 4435 acres
Additional land requirement:
3333 acres
Requisition for land by state government: 75,000 sq ft in different stretches
Major army holdings Iblur Camp - 520.7 acres Iblur Range - 445.26 acres ASC and Centre - 1362.77 acres MEG and Centre - 860.43 acres CMP Centre and School - 150.49 acres
Para Regiment Training Centre -
304.49 acres 515 Base Workshop - 16.77 acres Military Farm, Agaram - 497.77 acres MF, Hebbal - 179.9 acres
Military land leased to government agencies Doordarshan station Chinnaswamy Stadium Police Wireless Station and Grounds
Military land given for road widening: MG Road, Bellary Road, Bangalore Military School on Hosur Road, Airport Road, etc
Afforestation programmes: Army maintains as many as 37,000 full-grown trees and is continuing its plantation work in all its bases
Eviction done: Dhobi Ghat at Ulsoor, Khoday’s Circle
Green cover
The army has 37,000 trees in different campuses of its units and afforestation drives are frequently carried out. Cleanliness and upkeep of the campuses are a high priority for the Army. When the military farms in Hebbal and Agaram are disbanded, trees will be grown there.
Boundary walls to be built
The ministry of defence has granted permission for construction of high boundary walls along all its properties. Though the expenditure is colossal, construction is inevitable. The army has been insisting that the land given to the government for development works should be compensated with a demand for constructing boundary walls by the agency which is granted the land.
Provisions of the Cantonment Act
The cantonment is a specified area for lodging of troops or a permanent military station in India. According to the Cantonment Act of 1924, the army reserves the rights of the properties under its holding and the area is managed by a Cantonment Board which is the autonomous authority under the ministry of defence, government of India. The development activity in these cantonments is the prerogative of the board and the land cannot be sold or mortgaged for any other purpose, other than those of the military. The Act was amended and a new Act is in force under the title Cantonment Act 2006 which provides more teeth to the Cantonment Board. The new Act aims at greater democratisation of the 62 Cantonment Boards in the country.


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