According to the Ministry of Defence, the defence land in the country is close to 17.5 lakh acres. Rajasthan has close to half of this land while five states together hold 80% of this land. Defence land is also encroached and more than 11000 acres of Defence land across the country is encroached. Out of this, more than 1400 acres is recovered as per the available data.
The Defence forces require large areas of land for training, ranges, depots, airfields, quartering, camping, offices etc. for military activities. The Ministry of Defence, therefore, owns large tracts of land of approximately 17.5 lakh acres, out of which approximately 1.57 lakh acres is situated within the 62 notified Cantonments and about 15.96 lakh acres is outside these Cantonments. Land norms for Defence establishments provide for open spaces and grounds for a variety of military and operation purposes.
The Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, declares any place along with boundaries to be a cantonment in which the Armed Forces is quartered or any such place that is required for the service of the armed forces.
In terms of Entry 3 of Union List (Schedule VII) of the Constitution of India, Urban Self Governance of the Cantonments and the Housing Accommodation within the Cantonments is a subject matter of Government of India. There are 62 Cantonments in the country which have been notified under the Cantonments Act, 1924 (succeeded by the Cantonments Act, 2006). The overall municipal administration of the notified Cantonments is the function of the Cantonment Boards which are democratic bodies. There are four categories of Cantonments which depend on the size of population residing inside a Cantonment.
Defence land is acquired only after the use of land is specified and accepted by the government. Hence, there is no surplus defence land. Defence land which is presently lying vacant or unused is either earmarked for a specific purpose or is meant to be used for defence purpose in future as per strategic, operational and key location plan needs and in keeping with requirements of the dynamic security environment of the country
Total Defence Land in the Country
The Ministry of Defence holds about 17.5 lakh acres of land across the country. Nearly half of this land (47%) is in Rajasthan. Almost 80% of the Defence land is in just five states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh & Punjab. 17 States/UTs in the country have more than 10000 acres of defence land each. Both Mizoram, Dadra & Nagar Haveli do not have a single acre of defence land. Nagaland, Daman & Diu, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, Puducherry each have less than 1000 acres of defence land.
Encroachment of Defence Land
When it comes to land encroachment, even the defence land is not spared. As per information available with the government, 11,379 acres of defence land is under encroachment across the country. This is about 0.65% of the total defence land in the country. Topping the charts is Daman & Diu where 58% of the defence land is encroached. Next is Chhattisgarh where close to 11% of the defence land is encroached. In Bihar and Jammu Kashmir, 4% and 3% of the defence land is encroached respectively. More than 1% of the defence land is encroached in 12 States/UTs. Not even a single acre of defence land is encroached in 9 States/UTs. None of the bigger states is part of this list. Among the bigger states, only 0.03% of defence land is encroached in Kerala & 0.04% is encroached in Rajasthan. In terms of absolute numbers, Uttar Pradesh tops the chart where 3142 acres of defence land is encroached followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra & Haryana in that order.
Action for removal of encroachments is taken under the provisions of Public premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 as well as the Cantonments Act, 2006. In addition, following steps are being taken for detection and removal of encroachments from defence land;
- Issue of instructions to all concerned to expedite eviction proceedings by following the due process of law.
- Defence land management system has been strengthened through computerisation of defence land records; survey, demarcation and verification of all defence lands and periodic land audit.
- A Committee has been constituted for monitoring progress with regard to prevention and removal of encroachment.
Reduction in Encroachments
And as per available information, there is a reduction in total defence land encroached by 1427 acres. This represents a reduction of about 12.5% of the total encroached defence land. The largest reduction was observed in Haryana where almost 78% of the encroached land was recovered. More than 100 acres of reduction in encroached land was observed in Assam, Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra.
Source: Unstarred Question No. 1011 Answered on 28.11.2014 & Unstarred Question No. 2866 Answered on 13.03.2015 in the Lok Sabha, Ministry of Defence
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