Malls, halls on defence land draw CAG flak

Malls, halls on defence land draw CAG flak

They also bend the rules and cut corners allowing misuse of defence land by civilians and private agencies causing a loss of crores to the exchequer, according to a Comptroller and Auditor  General (CAG) report.

The IAF authorities, for instance, allowed 10 buildings in four stations under the control of the Bangalore-based IAF Training Command for non-defence purposes by the Air Force Wives’ Welfare Association (AFWWA) in serious violation of rules.

The Defence Ministry, in fact, has taken a serious view of the sanctioning of 10 buildings to the AFWWA, a registered non-governmental society. The ministry has asked IAF headquarters to institute a court of inquiry and fix responsibility.

However, the Director-General, Defence Estate, did not initiate any action till September 2009 when the Bangalore establishment was audited, the CAG stated in its report tabled in  Parliament on Friday.

The CAG report points the finger at the sorry state of affairs in the Defence Ministry,  India’s biggest land owner, resulting in a loss of thousands of crores to  the government exchequer.

The Army had faced two of its biggest scandals in Sukhna and Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai also due to irregularities in land management and flouting of the rule book. The Defence Ministry possesses 17.31 lakh acres.  Even though a large portion of the land is prime real estate, unauthorised land use, violation of rules and disregard for land management practices are rampant.

Take the case of seven defence buildings in Bangalore. The buildings housed in 1.81 acres in Bangalore are under the custody of the local military authority and being used for non-defence purposes like the Institute of Hotel Management and hostels for boys and girls from 1994-95 without the ministry’s sanction.

The IAF authorities in Bangalore have been using defence land for unauthorised purposes like shopping complexes, private engineering colleges, cinemas and banks without proper sanction, the CAG said.

Bypassing the rules and legal practices is commonplace in the Belgaum cantonment as well. Indian Oil Corporation Limited is illegally occupying 1,280 sq ft of additional land in Belgaum.

Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation had occupied 0.2 acre of defence land in Belgaum cantonment since 1988. The land was taken back in 2005 but the rent for the intervening period was neither worked out nor claimed.

To make matters worse, nobody in the Defence Ministry owned up responsibility for the Belgaum land controversy  when audit raised questions.

The CAG has also pointed out the misuse of Old Grant Bungalows,  legacy of pre-independence land policies in Bangalore, and the use of defence land for opening public parks in Bangalore without the Defence Ministry’s approval.

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