New Delhi: Stung by the negative assessment of the government`s auditor, the armed forces have sought the Defence Ministry`s nod to officially recognise golf as a "valid sporting activity" in military stations, in an effort to blunt the criticism.
The armed forces, most of whose officers are engaged in playing a game of golf during their leisure hours, have sought to give legitimacy to 97 courses they run across the country, both inside and outside military stations, but on defence land that has been described as illegal exploitation of government property.
Sources in the armed forces said here Monday that a proposal had been moved to the Defence Ministry pointing out that in the past, government funds have been sanctioned for the promotion of the sport among the defence services fraternity.
The Defence Ministry too, the sources said, was in-principle favourable to the armed forces proposal and a precedent would be set by recognising golf as a sporting activity for defence personnel by passing the necessary orders.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in various reports over the last half-a-decade, has slammed the armed forces for creating golf courses over vast tracts of defence land. The defence forces now either own or run 97 of the around 180 golf courses throughout the country.
A recent CAG report had even gone a step further and described the 97 golf courses, most of which are run as clubs, as illegal and asked the government to take a serious view of commercial use of the defence land by floating the golf clubs and collecting membership charges from serving officers, civilians and even foreign nationals but not remitting the revenue to the government`s coffers.
The CAG report, tabled in Parliament in March, noted that 79 of the 97 clubs have occupied 8,076.94 acres of top-class defence land meant strictly for military purposes. In the case of the other 18 golf courses, there is no data available on the land they are occupying.
Though CAG officials admit that they were not against playing golf, they point out that the "scales of accommodation" for the defence services did not allow for golf courses as an authorised activity on defence land meant for the training of troops.
The armed forces have, interestingly, for long christened their golf courses as "Army Environmental Parks and Training Areas", hoping to stave off criticism as the services were doing their bit towards protecting and conserving the ecology.