Reeling under an onslaught of land scams, the defence ministry has begun fine-tuning its policy of issuing no objection certificates (NoCs) for transfer of land near military installations.
To eliminate the possibility of any hanky panky in land deals, defence minister AK Antony said on Wednesday that no NoC would be issued to private builders directly by local military authorities unless required by law.
He said vested interests were “exploiting gaps” in the defence land management system.
The minister’s comments come at a time when the military finds its reputation tarred by a series of scams such as the ones in Sukna, Colaba and Kandivili. Land scams entail either illegally issuing NoCs or ceding control of land under the occupation of the military.
Antony revealed to the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on defence that the government would make suitable amendments to the Works of Defence Act, 1903, which imposes restrictions on building activity around defence installations. The minister said it had not been amended for over a century and it was important to make it relevant to the current scenario.
Antony told the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on defence that the ministry will shortly frame policies governing the giving of NoCs where the state laws require consultation with local military authorities for construction next to defence installations.
He said the ministry was giving topmost priority to computerisation of land records. “Without computerisation, it will be difficult to manage our vast land records.”
The total landholding of the armed forces is pegged at about 14 lakh acres outside cantonments and another 2 lakh acres across 62 cantonments, making it one of the largest landholders in the country.
Under India’s Constitution, land is a state subject, which makes the task of defence land management a bit tricky. He said, “Even though we have our system of keeping land-title related records, yet there exists a revenue system in each state. If for a particular piece of land, the ownership records tally, there is no problem. But in some instances, this is not so.”
The MPs suggested that the ministry should also carry out physical survey of land in its possession, apart from digitizing records.
The complex classification and uses of defence land, problems inherited from the British regarding legal rights and the variation of land laws in different states make management of defence estates a complex task.