Sunday, June 17, 2012

Land sharks squat on defence ministry’s 12,000 acres

TNN | Jun 12, 2012, 02.34AM IST
NEW DELHI: A staggering 12,000 acres of land managed by the defence ministry has been encroached on and much of it for more than 20 years, the ministry informed Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday.
Of the total land encroached, 4,500 acres is under the defence estates management and the ministry is now engaged in recording, updating and microfilming lakhs of documents while also reviewing leases that have either expired or are under dispute.
Ministry officials faced some sharp questions from PAC members like N K Singh, Bhatruhari Mahtab and Shashi Tharoor over how proceeds from land developed by government and private parties was used and whether there were records of No Objection Certificates (NoCs) granted by defence authorities.
There was a brief reference to the Adarsh scam with Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam wanting to know whether the ministry could claim ownership of the controversial real estate in south Mumbai if it had never received an ownership deed.
Mahtab, however, pointed out that the relevant record of defence owning the land could be a part of military land records that the ministry has been asked to locate. The land on which the society came up in violation of norms with flats worth in crores allotted to influential persons has been in the defence ministry's possession for several years.
Perhaps wariness about land issues after the Adarsh scam, saw the ministry respond to the committee's queries after five reminders and a year after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report reached the PAC.
The defence establishment owns a little over 17 lakh acres of land and with the NoC granted, although not executed, for a private school leading to the highly publicized Sukna land case, members wanted to know how many NoCs have been granted in recent years.
The query, however, drew a blank as a senior ministry official said the information was classified leading to MPs demanding that it be shared with the panel internally. The ministry carefully told the committee that it has made public information regarding "old grants", many that have been concluded in British times.
Tharoor is believed to have expressed surprise over the manner in which funds generated from land transactions were not monitored under a separate head as he felt these should be deposited in the consolidated fund of India.
In its presentation, the ministry said it has now banned any NoC being issued to private parties and this was being strictly complied with while all defence organizations were actively computerizing records that were placed under electronic time seals signed by relevant officers.
Land sharks squat on defence ministry’s 12,000 acres

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