Defence minister AK Antony last September told Parliament that efforts were on to retrieve 12,300 acres of encroached military land, but didn’t tell the House that only a fraction had been recovered. In fact, only 177 acres have been recovered in the last three years, HT has found through an RTI plea.
While the minister promised to stay vigilant against encroachments by states and private bodies, documents with HT show that from 6,903 acres in 1997, the encroached land increased to 12,300 acres — almost the size of Delhi’s Dwarka township —in 2013.
In July 2011, Antony had asked the directorate general defence estates (DGDE) to conduct a countrywide audit to determine the status of defence land. The audit came close on the heels of unearthing of the Adarsh housing scam and two other high-profile cases related to defence land in Maharashtra.
Some states such as Gujarat, Kerala, Arunachal, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have seen no recovery between March 2010 and March 2013, the RTI reply reveals. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst when it comes to clearing squatters, with close to 3,079 acres and 2,500 acres usurped and only 44 acres and 13 acres recovered, respectively.
When contacted, P Daniel, additional DG DGDE, said, “About 773 acres are under encroachment of state governments and their undertakings and about 31 acres under other central government departments…” The biggest chunk — 2,582 acres — was occupied by former agricultural lessees, who were leased out land by defence authorities, said Daniel, who didn’t provide details of encroachments by private parties.