Defence minister AK Antony on Wednesday said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had been asked to probe a land scam near military installations in Srinagar after irregularities were detected in issuing no-objection certificates (NoCs) to sell real estate to private parties.
Antony told Rajya Sabha that a preliminary inquiry by the defence ministry had blown the lid of irregularities in issuing NOCs that might have “wider implications,” as first reported by HT on October 3, 2011.
The ministry’s internal probe pointed to collusion among officials of the defence estates department and state government and land sharks who got together to sell more than 200 acres of land on the fringes of the high-security Srinagar air force station and 15 Corps headquarters. The land is estimated to be worth Rs 1,500 crore.
“In order to get the matter thoroughly investigated and fix responsibility, the government has entrusted the inquiry the to CBI,” Antony stated in a written reply to a question posed by BJP MP Hema Malini. More than 70 NOCs were issued during the last four years to facilitate land transfer.
The NOCs stated that the defence ministry had never acquired the land, contrary to official records that show the government had bought the land in the 1960s. The defence ministry has already suspended the defence estates officer, Srinagar circle.
It was against the backdrop of scams such as the ones exposed in Sukna, Colaba and Kandivili that defence minister AK Antony barred local authorities from issuing NOCs. Antony’s diktat was part of an overarching plan to fine-tune the defence land management system to eliminate the possibility of any hanky panky in land deals.
The total landholding of the armed forces is pegged at about 14 lakh acre outside cantonments and another 2 lakh acre across 62 cantonments, making it one of the largest landholders in the country. Land is a state subject under India’s Constitution, making the task of defence land management quite tricky.