Thursday, May 26, 2011

CAG's googly on golf- Army stakes land use for the Club

Forces want golf made 'valid' sporting activity
Rajat Pandit, May 9, 2011, 01.44am IST

NEW DELHI: The armed forces want to have their golf and play it too. Senior officers want to tee off in the lush greens of their sprawling golf courses, without having to constantly look over their shoulders for audit watchdogs.
Stung by scathing reports of Comptroller and Auditor General of India, which year after year punches more holes into their golf courses than the 18 required, the armed forces have petitioned the defence ministry to include golf as "a valid sporting activity" on military land.
That golf is big in the military, almost becoming synonymous with having OLQs (officer-like qualities), can be gauged from the fact that over half of the around 180 golf courses in India are either owned or run by the armed forces.
The Army Zone Golf, for instance, runs 97 golf courses. And the military is loath to part with this "physical activity", which as senior officers put it, teaches " discipline, dedication and unwavering commitment in reaching one's goals".
"The armed forces want golf to be included as a legitimate sport on A-1 defence land (basically land in active occupation of military). The proposal is being examined, though it has got in-principle approval," said an MoD source.
This comes after a series of CAG reports pulled up the armed forces for unauthorized use of defence land for golfing purposes, with even some instances of "misuse of special financial powers" meant for operational requirements to purchase golf carts or construct buildings on courses being recorded.
CAG officials, on their part, say they are not against golf per se. "But 'Scales of Accommodation' for defence services do not include golf as an authorized activity on military recreation grounds," said an official.
"MoD has not framed any policy or set of rules to govern the running of these golf courses on prime defence land, as also the treatment of the revenue generated from these activities. So, as things stand now, these golf courses are unauthorized. The government can regularize them by changing the laws," he added.
The armed forces, however, feel CAG "needlessly picks on" their golf courses. In 2004, the then Army chief Gen N C Vij had declared golf as "a sports activity" and not just "a recreational activity", with golf courses even being named as "Army environmental park and training areas".
But CAG remains unimpressed. In the backdrop of scams like Sukna, Adarsh and Kandivali-Malad dogging defence land, MoD (the country's largest landowner, with 17.3 lakh acres under its control) needs to lay down clear-cut rules whether golf is legitimate or not. Otherwise, the audit watchdog and armed forces will remain at daggers drawn.
Forces want golf made 'valid' sporting activity
Comment: If Golf is a sports activity in the Army then Golf should be declared a troops game in which all ranks are permitted to play.
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