Defence estates need to be protected, says Nirmala

Defence estates need to be protected, says Nirmala

Nirmala Sitharaman

Asserting that urbanisation is spreading at a "very fast" rate in cities, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said defence estates are critical assets which need to be "more cautiously protected" against any kind of encroachment.

In her address at the Raksha Mantri Awards for Excellence 2018 hosted by the Directorate General of Defence Estate (DGDE) here, she also pitched for "greater coordination" between cantonment and municipal authorities to ensure no part of defence lands are lost to encroachments.

The categories in which these awards have been given are very critical to transform India to a civic-conscious, welfare-conscious, and public-conscious country, the defence minister said.

"Defence estates role is very important, and as important as the guarding of the borders of this sovereign country. And, I say with so much of seriousness, several lakhs of acreage fall under your (DGDE) control. In particular areas of cantonments, over 20 lakh citizens depend on it," she said.

The minister said the area managed by the DGDE may be located in far, interior areas of the country, but it is very important to spread defence assets, which are "critical for emergency (situation), and critical for protection of the country, and critical to house our soldiers".

Sitharaman said earlier this year elected representatives from various cantonment boards had met her and discussed the issue of roads and access to certain areas.

"In towns and cities, where urbanisation is creeping in at a very fast (rate), pressure is coming from places closer to where defence estates are located...We probably lose a lot more space for want of greater coordination between local authorities and the DGDA," she said.

The Union minister said after any kind of encroachment, it becomes everybody's tiring business as to how to remove it.

"So, I strongly appeal to all, to have greater coordination with municipal and cantonment authorities, to ensure we do not lose, inch by inch, what is otherwise defence estate," Sitharaman said.

Among the various categories of awards which were handed out by the Union minister at a ceremony, Delhi Cantonment won it in the Swachh cantonment segment.