Defence ministry launches land audit to curb scams

Stung by Sukna and Adarsh scams, the Defence Ministry has decided that NOCs for construction on defence lands in cantonments would be given only by it, snatching the right from Cantonment Board Chief Executive Officers.

Updated: May 04, 2011, 23:35 PM IST

New Delhi: Stung by scams involving its land, the defence ministry has launched a series of measures, including the audit of its real estate, using modern techniques. Besides, it is digitising records and revamping its policy on property transfer, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.

At the first performance appraisal conference of cantonment boards` chief executives, Antony said the policy on issuing no-objection certificates to civilians on land near defence establishments has been overhauled and these certificates would now be issued strictly according to laid down procedures.

In his address, read out in absentia, the defence minister also said the military units in cantonments and defence establishments would now take charge of guarding their lands.

The defence ministry and the three services have been hit by several land-related scams in the recent years, including at Sukna military station leading to conviction of a senior lieutenant general in a court martial and at a naval station in Mumbai where 31-storeyed Adarsh Housing Society came up.

Antony announced two important projects for efficiently managing defence estates.

"One is regarding the introduction of modern survey technology in the defence estates and completing of survey work of all defence land in phase-wise manner within a period of three years."

"The second project is that of digitisation and indexing of defence land records," he said.

The land audit will encompass the 62 cantonments and all of the defence estates.

The director general of defence estates (DGDE) is the custodian of 17.3 lakh acres of land holdings in cantonments and other defence estates, making it the largest land holders in the country.

Cautioning that the land audit does not get reduced to just being a fault-finding exercise by one department of another, the defence minister said: "The intention is to control and monitor adherence to laid down procedures and strengthen the overall land management system."

The audit has been ordered on the basis of a recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence, he added.

Antony said the procedure related to issue of no-objection certificate for defence land would be done strictly according to laid down policy.

Observing that "a few NoCs issued in the past by certain local authorities have earned us a bad name", Antony said this must be avoided.

He declared that all vacant pieces of defence land would be constantly monitored to avert encroachment.

"In order to protect vacant pieces of defence lands, camping grounds and abandoned airfields, it has been decided that they would be guarded by nearby military units and when this was not possible sufficient manpower resources would be placed with the defence estates officers to look after them," he added.

A computerisation project to "scan, index and microfilm" all defence land title-related records has been sanctioned by the defence ministry.

"This is an important project to make land-title related documents easily retrievable as also preserve them for future years," Antony added.