The military is finding it hard to shake off the lingering criticism of its golfing culture by the country’s highest auditor. This time, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has dropped a bombshell by declaring that all army golf courses are unauthorised.
In a scathing attack on unauthorised use of defence land, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Friday asserted that golf was not an authorised activity in the armed forces and clubs were being commercially exploited without the state getting any share in the revenue.
The CAG found out that civilians and foreigners were also teeing off at the army’s 97 golf courses across the country. “Heavy amount of revenues were being earned without paying any lease rent for use of government assets. Revenue generated was not credited to government accounts,” the CAG observed in a report tabled in Parliament on Friday. The audit found 79 of those golf courses spanned 8,077 acres --- an area equivalent to almost 5,500 football fields. The report stated that the status of such courses scattered across prime real estate was unclear as there were no rules governing it.
Deputy CAG Rekha Gupta told HT , “We have no problems with army officers playing golf. But it is not an authorised activity and the defence ministry has not framed any rules to regulate golf courses.”
The army coined its own moniker for golf courses in 2004 --- Army Environmental Park and Training Area (AEPTA). The army told CAG that the courses helped to maintain “ecological balance” at military stations and were also used for training troops.
Asked if the AEPTA nomenclature was misleading, CAG’s director general of audit (defence services) Gautam Guha said, “I don’t know about that. But the fact is golf is also played there.”
A senior army officer said golf courses had come up in military stations where adequate open space was available within authorised norms and no extra government land had been sought. He said golf clubs were a no-go area for foreigners but diplomats were permitted to use the facilities with security clearance.
The CAG’s first ever comprehensive review of defence estates management revealed that 2,500 acres valued at Rs 11,033 crore had been leased out for a paltry annual rent of Rs 2.13 crore.
The CAG also found defence land leased out to clubs in military stations was being utilised for unauthorised commercial purposes by civilians. The defence ministry is the biggest landholder in the country with 17.31 lakh acres.