Indian Army wants money for its land

New Delhi June 7   Struggling to get equal value land (EVL) against thousands of acre of defence land encroached or transferred to state governments, the Army has sought compensation that will help fund its modernisation and infrastructure projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore over a period of five years. The Army has written to the Ministry of Defence seeking money in lieu of land, government sources told DNA. A letter on the subject was written to the MoD last month stating that 1550.20 acre of military land has been transferred to state government for public utilities and another 1219.98 acres has been encroached. There is further demand for another 747 acre by state governments.

With state governments unable to return land of equal value, the Army has proposed that state government pay money that will be put to use for its Married Accommodation Project (MAP) that requires Rs 5000 crore and another Rs 15,000 crore for procuring modern equipment annually for a period of five years.

According to the MAP, nearly two lakh dwellings have to be provided to the armed forces to meet the accommodation shortage. Of this, 1, 76,000 are for the Army alone.

“This issue has come up from time to time but as state governments are unable to provide equal value land,” said an official dealing with defence estates. It is proposed that the money in such cases goes to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) be given to the army directly and it should be made non-lapsable. The proposal to provide money in lieu of land comes amid a financial crunch creating hurdles in the army’s modernisation plans. The force faces a shortage of small arms and assault rifles.

Although the Army’s long standing demand for small arms critical to boost the firepower of troops in terror operations and border conflicts got a push earlier this year as the Defence Ministry cleared procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines worth Rs 3547 this was just the first step.

With the army being unhappy with the indigenous assault rifles, the requirement of eight lakh arms will still take a long time to be filled in.

Keeping the cost constraints in mind, there is a view that around 2.5 lakh assault rifles out of the total eight lakh should be procured from abroad. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday rejected the view that the armed forces are facing a financial or ammunition crunch. Earlier, the then Army Vice Chief Sarath Chand who recently retired had told a Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence in an oral deposition that budget allocation for 2018-19 had “dashed hopes “of the army. He had pointed out that army’s 68 per cent equipment is vintage, 24 per cent in current and 8 per cent in the state of the art category.