Chidambaram eyes defence land for raising revenue

Chidambaram eyes defence land for raising revenue

Ministry land worth Rs 11,000 cr earning less than market rate

Chidambaram eyes defence land for raising revenue

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, desperately looking for ways to replenish government coffers, may set his eyes on the Defence Ministry that has land worth more than Rs 11,000 crore but is earning only Rs 2.13 crore as annual rent.

These shocking details have been revealed in a report of Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by veteran Bharatiya Janata Party MP Murli Manohar Joshi.

The report was adopted at a meeting on Thursday.

The PAC report on “Defence estates management” has expressed concern that 2,500 acres valued at Rs 11,000 core was on lease for an annual rent of Rs 2.13 crore which is shockingly far too less than its market rate. The defence estates have not bothered to make any effort to renew 3,780 lease deeds. No requests were received for renewing 1,800 cases. And, the status of 1,081 is not known, the report says.

The PAC has taken strong objection to the Defence Ministry for not taking action against errant defence estate officials on the pretext of multiple agencies involved in its execution, despite the monumental losses to the government exchequer.

The Defence Ministry headed by A K Antony, however, has assured the watchdog that a policy is being framed to address irregularities. Vacant pieces of defence land spread across prime locations of the country are leased out to public and private users. But, laxity and at times connivance on the part of defence estate officers often lead to lack of proper maintenance of contract records.

Tenants  often approach court for usurping land. People who occupy the land have started commercial activities and raised unauthorised construction. In some instances,  lease deeds have expired 60 years ago. Many of them have not been renewed.

Guidelines ignored

Though there are guidelines for expeditious and timely renewal of leases, defence estate officers often ignore them. Apart from losing revenue, the ministry in some places is not able to get land back which it requires for strategic and security purposes, the PAC findings reveal.

The committee, in its report, which will be tabled when Parliament resumes, has also recommended that responsibility be fixed for the delay in computerisation of defence lands.

The ministry has informed the panel that land records have been computerised. But, the report pointed out that incompatibility of the newly purchased hardware with the operating system has led to the purchase of another improvised software, leading to lack of uniformity in land records.

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