No tolerance to wrongdoing, DGDE to be strengthened: Raju

New Delhi: Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju Thursday said the government will not tolerate any corruption in any department and said his ministry was considering strengthening the defence estates wing, which has come under scanner over land scam in the recent months.

Contradicting his senior Minister's assertion that the Defence Ministry will study the possibility of dismantling of the defence estates wing, Raju said the government would strengthen it, as it was "essential" to safeguard the large land-holdings of the armed forces.

"I think there will be no tolerance for any wrongdoing in any department, leave alone the Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE)," he told reporters on the sidelines of a CII-sponsored seminar on Naval Armament here.

He was replying to a query on the scams such as the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai involving the DGDE that has come out in the recent times and if the government was mulling disbanding of the DGDE.

"The Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) has given some observations on the functioning of the DGDE and has given some recommendations. DGDE is an essential department, which is safeguarding 17.3 lakh acres of land of the armed forces. It needs to be strengthened.

"We will take into cognisance all the recommendations and try to improve the functioning of the DGDE. It (study on disbanding DGDE) was wrongly reported in the media today," he added.

He said the CDGA had not recommended disbanding of the DGDE, but had only suggested that instead of involving the DGDE in land acquisitions, the forces and services should directly do the acquisitions.

To improve the functioning of the DGDE, Raju said, the Ministry had now initiated the process of computerising the land records and registration documents.

Antony, in a written reply to members' questions on DGDE, told the Rajya Sabha yesterday that "keeping in view the limited utility of the DGDE, the Defence Ministry may like to order a comprehensive study for disbanding this organisation from most of the activities from defence land management in a phased manner."

Antony had said that agencies such as DRDO and the Ordnance Factory Board may be authorised to deal directly with state governments for expediting the land acquisition process.

"Elimination of additional layer of DGDE from defence land acquisition process shall speed up the acquisition process and is expected to eliminate time and cost over-runs both for land and infrastructure on this," he had said.

The recommendations were made to the government by the CGDA after they carried out a special performance audit to identify the bottlenecks in land acquisition process, which result in delays.