Shift firing range in Belgaum, State tells Maratha Regiment

The Karnataka government has issued an order asking the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment (MLIR) to shift its Baghdad Asmara Firing Range at Savagaon in Belgaum district.

A senior Army officer from the Karnataka and Kerala Sub-area, however, told Deccan Herald that the defence authorities had taken up the matter legally and that it was in a Belgaum court.

“The Army has been using the land since Independence and there was never an issue. The problem began after Belgaum MP Suresh Angadi built a college in the notified area and demanded things we could not oblige,” he said.

The officer said the then-chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda, at a meeting at his office, had said he would hold another meeting with all officials concerned and the Army before taking a decision.

“But none of us has been consulted and the government’s decision is unilateral. It is one-sided and the Army headquarters will intervene and take up the matter with the Centre,” he said.

The government had, in 2000, extended the lease period of the artillery and field firing range for 20 years. The Revenue department officials said the order had been issued, as the decision to extend the lease was taken without following the mandatory provisions of law.

History of use

The Army had been utilising the land for its artillery and field firing activities since 1970, the Revenue department officials said, adding the lease was being periodically extended.
On May 24, 2000, this was extended for another 20 years, but the land provided was reduced from 10,639.36 acres to 7,469.11 acres, which the officials say belongs to farmers.

Farmers of nine villages around the firing range have opposed the construction works taken up by the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment in the recent past and Belgaum MPs Angadi and Prabhakar Kore have been demanding that thefiring range be moved, as it was hindering agricultural activities and affecting the movement of traffic.

The government order directs the Belgaum Deputy Commissioner to set up a land audit committee to ascertain the exact requirement of land for the firing range.

The order restrains the regiment from carrying out construction work on the land and has requested the Defence ministry to pay compensation to farmers.

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