NEW DELHI The Army has proposed that cantonments across the country should be converted into “military stations” after separating civilian areas from them, the government said today.
At present, 62 cantonments are operational in 19 states across the country in a total area of 1.57 lakh acres. Approximately 21 lakh people are living in the cantonments, according to official data.
“The Army has suggested excision of civil areas of Cantonments and converting military pockets into military stations,” Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply to a query in Rajya Sabha,
The Army has been pressing for converting the cantonments into exclusive military stations as part of larger goal of improving operational readiness of the force. The first cantonment was set up by the British and the number grew steadily over the years.
“Cantonments, with a 250-year history, are important institutions that bear testimony to the harmonious co-existence of civilians and defence personnel,” said Bhamre.
Asked whether the government has plans to abolish the cantonments, Bhamre said there is no such proposal.
To a separate question on whether the government is considering to introduce compulsory military training for school children, Bhamre said “no”.
Replying to another question, Bhamre said a joint military exercise between Indian Army and Japan Ground Self Defence Force is planned to be held in India later this year.
Of the 17.3 lakh acres of land owned by the MoD, almost 2 lakh acres fall in the 62 cantonments in 19 states. When most of the cantonments came up before Indias Independence, they were located far away from populated areas or on the outskirts of towns. But with the population explosion and growing urbanization, cantonments now constitute prime property within cities.
After Independence, the Army gradually moved away from the concepts of cantonments due to the inclusion of civilian areas in them, and the attendant friction between military and civilian authorities, to progressively establish 237 military stations for their needs.
Defence officials say several parliamentary committees and CAG reports have adversely commented on the functioning of cantonments, which have their own laws and administration under a special Cantonment Act, as also mismanagement of leases, unauthorized constructions, encroachments and the like. If the leases are managed properly and expired leases are terminated, the government can earn a lot of revenue and get land for creation of Army infrastructure, said an official.
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