17 Jan 2010

Protect Army from land encroachers: High Court

Dealing with a petition challenging the order of the land-revenue authorities, the High Court of Allahabad has taken note of the grim situation faced by the army; its land being constantly subjected to encroachment. Taking note of the importance of the activities undertaken by the army, the High Court called forth the authorities to ensure that such lands were protected against encroachment. The High Court observed;
It has been brought to the notice of the court by learned counsel for the Union of India that in the northern cities where Military Cantonments are existing, a large number of encroachments have been made by the influential persons, land grabbers. Several cases have been filed in this Court relating to districts of Meerut, Allahabad, Bareilly, Luckow, Varanasi, Kanpur and other areas. This is going on all over India. The Defence Estate Officer has a duty to maintain the record and take care of the defence properties. The Govt. Lands must be protected and encroachers must be ousted so that the defence land is used for military purposes only or for residential purposes of Army Personnel and Ex. Army personnel. A detailed exercise has to be carried out all over India.

The Army does not have adequate land for “military purposes” and for carrying on its day to day affairs and operations including regular training. One of the primary reason for survival of India's vibrant democracy can be said to be our safe borders. The sentinels to the nation are a shining example of dedication, devotion and self services. The same comes from our ethos as well as from training. Our 1.5 million strong army is trained well. It is the training which is intrinsically wedded with the case in hand as explained herein under.
Kautilya's thought is, if you wish to reign well train and entertain your army well. Little wonder that be it the salubrious surroundings of Srinagar, Ranikhet, Wellington, Lansdown or the harsh deserts of Samkhar, Jaisalmer or Bikaner areas, cold deserts of Leh, Laddakh, freezing North Eastern Borders, Siachin glacier sprawling over hundreds of miles are grounds of Military Training and operations. The Indian Army is spread all over the borders. India's Army, far and wide, in order to ensure adequate training, requires ample open and uninterrupted space and training grounds. As per old thoughts, if you have to develop, need of the day is effective training of your Army. 
Training is largely a peace-time activity, which is carried out in the Cantonment Areas, having large fields, camping grounds of military(Paraos), meant for military training and exercises. It means that an Army Unit stationed at Kanpur or at some other place in India shall commence its day at 5:00 A.M. with P.T. And end up at 10:00 P.M. In addition to it, Night trainings is also carried out. The dictum “More you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war”, is all too well known.
As has been informed, the training grounds are usually of three types, (1) in the near vicinity, (b) in far away ranges and (c) Camping grounds. For going from (a) point to (b), all of them put together are known as defence lands. 
The Central Government has established Cantonment Boards and has appointed Cantonment Executive Officers as well as Defence Estate Officers to protect, preserve and maintain Defence land and Estates. They are required to act in tandem with the “local military authorities” as per relevant manuals. 
After having reasoned out the importance and necessity of the defence lands, this Court cannot refrain itself from expressing apprehension, which stem out from the instant case.
The Land Mafias and Land Grabbers are encroaching, transgressing and grabbing the lands around the Defence Estates,may it be Kanpur, Lucknow, Allahabad, Bareilly, Meerut, Banglore, Bhopal, Ranikhet, Bombay, Bhopal or Sukhna lake area. It has been brought to the notice of the Court that Entertainment Centres, Marriage Halls, Posh colonies Professional Educational Institutions, run by private parties and multi storied Buildings are being established uninterruptedly on army lands.
With Burgeoning sea of humanity moving to cities in search of the leverage of better living, almost all the cities are bursting at the seams and the civilians as well as land sharks are staking hungrily at the nearby Cantonments, defence lands for expansion. That is a cause of concern for all citizens. The Army cannot be squeezed into less space and be expected to train so well that it may be able to fire on Mountains deserts,plains or render help in flooded areas. Peace keeping in Sri Lanka and others parts of the world and disturbed cities. Army always delivers beyond our expectations, whether it is war or peace. The Role of Army is known to every citizen of India.
The persons entrusted with the work to protect and preserve the defence land, especially local Military Commanders owe it to the nation to ensure that the land earmarked to the former by the latter does not go into unauthorised hands, thereby frustrating the very purpose for which these defence lands have been kept reserved, that is for the purpose of training and preparation of our Army. Any deficiency in training or preparation of the Army may not result making this Country see the risk of losing its sovereignty.
It is common knowledge as to how private residential are as sprawling malls have come up in place of training or Camping grounds all over the Country; suspectedly as a result of ineffective monitoring , negligent, careless and callous approach of the authorities entrusted with the duty to protect it. Defence lands or lands contiguous thereto in Sukhna Banglore and Ranikhet is in the news due to wrong reasons. 
Keeping in mind the avowed intent and purpose in mind and with a sense of patriotic duty, it is the duty of the Court that Union of India, through Principal Secretary, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi be directed to issue directions to its Army Commanders of all the Commands, to get all kinds of defence lands and Estates surveyed,Maps be prepared and report to the Ministry of Defence if there is any slightest unauthorised encroachment, occupancy or illegal usurpation thereof for taking legal measures to ensure that our Forces are not forced to be housed into pigeon holes, but instead, retain their original spaces and holdings so that our Army may be trained well and serve the nation well. Appropriate directions may be issued by the above authority immediately to the concerned officers in furtherance of observations made by this Court in this judgement.

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