The defence ministry will change two crucial rules on military cantonments to ensure their transparent functioning. The ministry has released fresh drafts of the Cantonment Properties Rules and Cantonment (Regulation of Procedures of Committees of Arbitration) Rules that seek to improve the functioning of the cantonments.Comments from the public have been sought on these drafts which would be finalised after 60 days.
With 17.31 lakh acres of land, the defence ministry is India’s biggest landholder. Of this, about 2 lakh acres are in the 62 cantonments located across the country. The rest are occupied by the air force and naval bases, armament depots, DRDO units, firing range and camping sites. The land management issue in the military came to the fore because of the Sukhna and Pune land scams.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) came down heavily on the shoddy land management by the defence ministry. The CAG also highlighted multiple cases of misuse of properties within the cantonment and military station areas, depriving the government of legitimate income.
The new property rules make it mandatory for the Cantonment Board to keep a detailed register of the land. If new land is acquired, the land owner needs to be compensated as per the Right to Fair Compensation Act, 2013. The board has also been asked to check if the government is being denied of its legitimate income from these properties.
Since all cantonment rules pre-dated Independence, the language was also changed to replace words like “natives” that were there in the old rules, a defence ministry source told DH. So far, seven cantonment rules have been changed.