‘Be vigilant against defence land encroachments’

New Delhi: In the backdrop of Adarsh and Sukna scams, Defence Minister AK Antony has asked officials to remain vigilant against encroachment of defence lands and stressed that the first land audit will go a long way in "tightening the control system".

Releasing a compact disc containing data base of the 17 lakh acres of land under the Ministry, he directed the Directorate General Defence Estates (DGDE) to immediately conduct a reality check on ground to determine the status of land all over the country.

"While ensuring that defence lands are protected from unauthorised occupation or illegal claims, it is also your responsibility to ensure that no public land is occupied in an unauthorised manner without following due procedures," he told the officers at a function here on Wednesday evening.

On the audit of land under it, he said, "It will go a long way in tightening our land management control system."

A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also raised questions over the lack of audit of defence land across the country.

The land audit will cover issues including updation of land records; survey, demarcation and protection of defence lands by way of erection of boundary pillars and telling the records with actual ground situation; efficient usage of defence lands; encroachment on defence lands, the extent and reasons thereof, effectiveness of encroachment and removal actions.

The audit will also verify the usage of defence lands on a lease to institutions.

In the first phase, DGDE will carry out land audit in the Southern Command in this financial year.

The Minister said officials should pursue "vigorously" title disputes in courts with all sincerity.

"Land is a precious and rare commodity, title disputes in courts must be vigorously pursued to the correct and logical conclusion," he was quoted as saying in a release today.

Antony said the Ministry has taken a decision to guard strategically located installations such as defence lands, camping grounds and old airfields by nearby military units.

"In cases where this may not be possible, sufficient resources would be placed with the Defence DGDE to look after them," he said.

Antony said two projects have been approved by the Ministry under which modern surveying technology in defence estates will be introduced to complete the work of survey in all defence lands in a phased manner.

"The second project is for computerisation to scan, index and microfilming all defence land title related records.

"This project would make all documents pertaining to land title easily retrievable and facilitate their preservation," he said.

The Minister said an archival unit and resource centre would be established at Raksha Sampda Bhawan.