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Haryana, UP, Maharashtra saw highest encroachments on defence land in last 3 yrs, says govt

Defence officials say such encroachments are a major security threat and have continued to increase over the years due to rapid urbanisation.

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New Delhi: Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are among the states that have reported the highest amount of encroachments on defence land in the last three years — from 2017 to August 2020 — according to data shared in Parliament Monday.

The data showed that of the 56.48 acres of the reported encroachments or unauthorised constructions detected on defence land in the last three years, Haryana reported encroachments on 17.68 acres, followed by Uttar Pradesh on 7.42 acres and Maharashtra on 7.33 acres.  

They are followed by Rajasthan, which reported encroachments on 6.07 acres of land, Bihar on 4.13 acres and Delhi on 3.80 acres. 

Some states such as Assam, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh, among others, have reported zero encroachments on defence land, the data showed.

Defence lands are managed by the Directorate General Defence Estates, which functions under the defence ministry.

‘Security threat’

Talking about such encroachments, defence sources told ThePrint they are a serious security threat and have been a cause of concern.

“In case of encroachments on cantonment areas, training activities and any movement of troops and equipment for operations can be monitored. Road blocks can also be engineered to delay such movements,” a senior Army officer explained. 

A second officer said that there is a certain danger area around the firing ranges, which needs to be kept clear of the civil population to avoid any stray bullet that can lead to a casualty. 

The officer also said that while earlier, cantonments used to be outside cities, with rapid urbanisation, cities have developed around them. 

“Since cantonments generate incomes and also create jobs, encroachments around them have continued to increase over the years,” the officer added. 

Encroachments close to airfields of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have also led to an increased number of bird-hit incidents, which have contributed 10 per cent to fighter jet accidents. 

Such incidents are fuelled by improper garbage disposal, rearing of pigeons by people staying dangerously close to air bases even as government notifications underline that there cannot be any civilian construction within 900 metres of the weapon storage area, many of which are located inside airfields, or 100 metres from the boundary of the air bases.

An IAF officer had earlier told ThePrint that political pressure doesn’t let the civilian administration take any action against such encroachments.

Also read: Cantonment roads issue: Are India’s civil-military ties being tested?

Reasons for encroachments

In a reply to the Lok Sabha Monday, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said in Lucknow cantonment area alone 2.93 acres of defence land have been detected to be under encroachment.

He attributed such encroachments or unauthorised constructions to the non-feasibility of enclosing the lands by way of construction of a boundary wall or a fence or by providing round-the-clock vigil as they are spread over a number of places in different parts of the country.

Naik said that land lying vacant, including “camping grounds” (training areas), abandoned airfields and those in close vicinity of civil pockets are more prone to encroachments.

An increased urbanisation and population increase are another factor, the minister added.

Steps taken to check encroachments 

Naik said that respective defence services, who manage lands, are responsible for their protection, removing encroachments and planning for their use. 

He said strengthening of defence land management through digitisation of land records, survey, demarcation, verification and land audit, and regular inspection of sites under respective jurisdiction by CEOs (Cantonment Executive Officers), DEOs (Defence Estate Officers) or station commanders are among measures taken to check unauthorised constructions on defence land.

The minister also issued detailed instructions emphasising the need for ensuring vigilance, detection and prevention of new encroachments.

Removal of encroachments on defence land, he said, are carried out under the provisions of Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 as well as under the  Cantonment Act, 2006. 

Also read: From posh areas to slums, India is unable to get rid of its encroachment problem


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