by Brig Arun Bajpai

Is It not funny that Ministry of Defence (MOD), straddled totally with civilian Babus, have formed an Expert Committee again fully composed of civilians with no knowledge of matters military, to make amendments to the cantonment Laws, where the stake holder is Army residing in these Cantonments from generations ? This so called Expert Committee will be visiting Agra in the first week of Dec 2018. During their visit they will hold individual meetings with all the stakeholders including Station Headquarters, Agra, DEO, President of the Cantonment Board & elected representative of Agra Cantonment.

This committee had recently visited Pune Cantonment, wherein the PCBs highlighted various problems related to mutations, GST, Floor Space Index (FSI) & problems faced in lease renewals, in addition to non-implementation of various Central Government schemes and Supreme Court orders. The Elected civilian Members for long have been involved in passing scathing remarks against the Army, holding it responsible for the so called under development in the cantonments. Before we proceed further we must understand that what these cantonments are about. They were conceived during British days to keep Army away from the civilian population and also to provide enough training areas to Army to train for their profession. these civilian elected members of now, of Cantonment Boards, are basically camp followers of army during British days . they had no rights. Now of course their entire game along with the civilian Babus of MOD is to take control of all 62 Cantonment Boards of India from Army thereby ensuring that there exists no checks and balances and the corrupt practices to go unnoticed and undetected. if this is allowed to happen there will be any number of Adarsh Society type of Scams in India.

It is common knowledge that the defence land has always been a prime target of the “land mafia”. just to give an example, Encroachments in 62 Military Cantonments in India include more than 52.6 Sq Km of land, more than 2500 illegally occupied Old Grant Bungalows and hundreds of illegal commercial properties. Despite Supreme Court orders for the removal of these encroachments and reclaiming of bungalows, no steps have been taken till date. The corruption is so deep in the Defence Estates Service (part of the Ministry of Defence) that the erstwhile government even had to consider disbanding the organisation in 2010 & so is the case with many affected members who have their vested interests attached to it and are involved in corrupt practices.

First for reason best known to MOD, suddenly 120 roads in all 62 Cantonments, some lying closed for more than 21 years, were opened for public use with no due thought that most of the Army officers and Jawan’s leave their families in these Cantonments for safety so that they can fight the enemy and Jihadist on the border without any fear of their families coming to harm. In one go this has been taken away affecting the morale of troops. The lease agreements of majority of Old Grant Bungalows numbering 2500 across the 62 cantonments will be expiring in year 2019. Each of these bungalows have 10-15 acres of land which can be used for constructing high rise buildings for the troops as living accommodation.

So Apparently, the aim is to cash in on this gold mine by these civilians because land leases are up for renewal and hence this expert committee. These land leases must not be renewed and all the 2500 bungalows should revert to Army Control. Sale of these bungalows and land in Cantonment Areas must be banned. The politicians and bureaucrats are all ready to grab this land, as has happened in cities including Mumbai in the past. The security of cantonments will be further jeopardised, as we have seen terror attacks specifically targeting families of serving military personnel in the past. In sum total this forming of Expert Committee by MOD itself is a big scam, aim being to take control of all Cantonments from Army. When it is Army staying in these cantonments and controlling them for ages why this sudden hurry now to dislodge the Army? There is just no need to change anything so far as cantonment boards are concerned. This is a ploy to grab the Cantonment land which should not be allowed. ESMs must file PIL is supreme court against this.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same