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Will Lucknow Cantonment be a no-civilian zone?

lucknow Updated: May 28, 2010 10:54 IST
Darpan Singh
Darpan Singh
Hindustan Times
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Defence authorities plan to take over all sprawling bungalows that the British once allotted to the moneyed, respectable citizenry of Lucknow, in the Cantonment limits. Following a marathon exercise, 15-odd bungalows have been taken over and four notices to ensure similar action are pending.

Top Defence Estates bosses say the mandate is to ensure resumption (taking over) of all the 69 Old Grant as well as Lease bungalows. Today, Lucknow’s crème de la crème, including Sudhir Halwasiya and Arif Md Sheikh, have bungalows in the area. Some of them have been taken over from the original occupants.

“The land on which the 69 bungalows stand is ours and we have every right to take it back. Compensations will be paid to the residents — mostly the who is who of Lucknow — as per the norms,” said an official.

Sources hinted the Army is exploring land expansion options across the country and Lucknow is no exception. “The armed forces are facing accommodation problems for its officers and soldiers but I cannot attribute the taking over of the bungalows to this problem,” said an official.

So why the taking over? “Cantonment areas are meant of troupes and not for the public. Such areas should not be crowded to ensure health, security, recreation etc,” the official said.

Plus, these bungalows were allotted strictly for residential purposes. “There’s definitely some commercial activity going on in the some of the structures,” said another official.

“The policy of taking back such properties is very old, the last structured directive being as old as of 1992,” Army sources said and added, “In the 1970s, 15 such bungalows were taken back in Lucknow. Now, 4-5 acquisition notices have been sent out to the occupants (recorded holders of occupancy rights).”

However, the process is not that easy. “The occupants move court and plead they are very poor and they don’t have any other shelter, while the fact remains they own a number of properties in the city itself,” said a source. On being served notices, the obtain a court stay which may run into as long as 30 years.

The History

There are a total of 69 bungalows, reminiscent of the British era, in the Lucknow Cantt area, the biggest one sprawling in as much as 15 acres of land. Defence source say the moneyed, respectable citizenry of Lucknow who sought proximity with the British were allowed to construct bungalows and reside in them.

The British also allowed the natives to come and reside in the bungalows on Defence land for reasons such as service and supplies, while the ownership rights lay with the East India Company. “It was convenient then because there was no population pressure,” said a source. There are 62 cantonments in India and of them, 25 of them are under the Lucknow-based Central Command, covering seven states.

Bungalows not likely to be demolished

The demolition and conversion of these bungalows into group housing/flats is not likely because of Cantt Board’s building bylaws, lease conditions and government policies. “No construction or demolition has been allowed by court,” said an official.

MEGA Accommodation Project

The armed forces are facing accommodation problems for its officers and soldiers. Consequent to the promise made to the Indian Armed Forces by the Centre, a four-phase Married Accommodation Project or MAP in already underway to construct married accommodation for the three services to take care of the housing problems.

A separate Directorate General Married Accommodation Project (DG MAP) was raised on 31 May 2002.With a mandate to construct 300,000 dwelling units, it is one of the largest construction endeavours in the world.

In the first phase, 8,459 units will be constructed across the country. In seven pockets of the Lucknow Cantt area, there will be 2,222 units for officers, JCOs and jawans. 1000-odd units are ready.