The Indian Auditor General (CAG) has found the Indian Army occupying excess land of 2071.81 acres and 2461.11 acres respectively in Jammu and Rajouri than it was allotted by the authorities. As per Defence Estate Officers (DEO) records, the Army had been allotted 3409.78 acres and 2472 acres of land in Jammu and Rajouri respectively. After verifying records locally, the CAG found Army occupying 5481.59 acres and 4933.96 acres at these two places. For Srinagar, the Army is yet to finalise data records as demanded by the CAG. In Poonch and Rajouri, they were found having occupied less land of 2511.28 acres and 1985.53 acres than what the records suggested.
The findings come in a CAG report on ‘Performance Audit of Defence Estates Management’ for the financial year ending March 2010. The report also pointed out that of defence lands were being encroached by high and mighty of country.
For instance, the CAG pointed out, Agra Club with 17.68 acres is paying a ridiculously low Rs 58.92 a year as rent to the defence ministry since 1992.
In Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, a bungalow with a 20.18 acre spread was given to a club supposedly for the welfare of the armed forces. The club in turn built 33 rooms, a restaurant and a petrol pump, and has been charging Rs 2,400 to Rs 3,000 a day per suite.
The CAG noted that in four stations in the Central and Southern Commands—Agra, Lucknow, Pune and Secunderabad—122.58 acres has been leased out to various clubs at abysmally nominal rates.
Land is being utilised for unauthorised commercial purposes like marriages, parties and exhibitions. Further, the four clubs owed Rs 2.14 crore for the years 2004 to 2010 on account of penalty for unauthorised structures.
Also, at least 16 golf courses operated by the Army Zone Golf, the apex body of army golf courses in India, offer membership to different categories of civilians on payment of monthly subscriptions. Other charges are also leaved per session.
The revenue so generated is not credited to the government account.
Lashing out at the government for not setting rules to govern and run golf courses, the CAG calculates that there are 97 golf courses under the army, spread over 8,076.94 acres.
In Lucknow, 19.57 acres of defence land was on lease to MB Club since 1931 to provide recreational facilities to army personnel. But, the CAG observed, the club was misusing the land for unauthorised purposes. This club owes Rs 34.21 lakh for using the land for commercial purposes.
Similarly, a race track over 65.15 acres in Pune Cantonment has been leased to the Royal Western India Turf Club since 1907. But, over the years, the club has occupied an additional 24.10 acres of defence land and has made additions and altercations to properties leased out without sanction.
In 1961, the defence ministry had sanctioned the construction of Hotel Clarks Shiraz in Agra Cantonment on 5.68 acres of defence land on payment of Rs 2,840 a year as rent. The hotel was also to pay a premium of Rs 56,800 for 30 years.
After the first lease term of 30 years expired in 1991, the rent was revised to Rs 11,931 a year for the hotel with 237 rooms. The CAG noted that the rent should have been fixed four times the residential rent as per government policy.
“Non-revision of rent in accordance with the government policy has resulted in the loss of Rs. 8.08 crore from 2001 to 2009,” the CAG said.
In an identical case, the Grand Hotel over 1.4 acres at Agra has been paying an annual rent of Rs 1,260.90 and a premium of Rs. 25,218. The rent was revised in 1993 and set at Rs 1891.35 a year against Rs 14.12 lakh at market value.
Noting that there have been repeated instances of misuse of defence land, buildings and manpower for running NGO activities in violation of government instructions, the CAG mentions that the Station Commander for Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh provided defence land valued at Rs 2.69 crore to a society to establish an education centre for a B.Ed course.
The commander also reappropriated six defence buildings for use by the society and got them repaired at Rs 29.90 lakh spent out of government funds.
In another case, the Station Commander at Jalandhar allowed the opening of an Army College of Nursing on defence land and buildings, and spent Rs 19.23 lakh from government funds for the repair of buildings.
In yet another case, the CAG noted that the Army Service Corps deployed 9 to 15 army personnel for running a hotel for wards of army personnel studying in a private engineering college at Aurangabad.
The expenditure on the personnel deployed for non-bonafide duties was Rs 1.01 crore between 2003 and 2008.