Cantonments to be phased out

| | New Delhi
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Cantonments to be phased out

Tuesday, 02 May 2023 | Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

The British Raj era military cantonments all over the country will be history soon with the first such cantonment in Yol, Himachal Pradesh shedding the tag of the “fauji” area. There are a total of 62 cantonments and the next in line to go is Nasirabad in Rajasthan.

Giving details here on Monday, sources said the Government issued the notification for Yol last week adding in a major departure from the archaic colonial practice of creating cantonments, Yol in Himachal Pradesh has shed its tag as a cantonment.

The Military Area within the Cantonment will be converted into a Military Station and the Civil Area will merge with the Municipality.

Contrary to perception, this move will prove beneficial to all alike. Civilians who were, until now, not getting access to state government welfare schemes through the Municipality, will now be in a position to avail these through the Municipality. As far as the Army is concerned, they too could now focus on the development of the Military station.

This is a first among a series of excisions of cantonments and is a move that has been welcomed by all. Cantonments are deemed Municipalities and running Municipalities is a State subject.

There were 56 Cantonments at the time of Independence and 6 more were notified after 1947, last one being Ajmer in 1962.

Civilian residents of Cantonments are not benefited from state government welfare schemes since Cantonments are governed by Cantonment boards through the Defence Estates Department of the Ministry of Defence. Hence, there is a popular demand from the civilian residents and also state govts for excision of Cantonments.  Dharamshala and Sitapur were denotified before 1947.

Also, a considerable portion of the Defence Budget is spent on the development of Civil Areas of Cantonments. Also due to the ever-increasing expansion of Civil Areas of Cantonments, there is pressure on A1 Defence Land. Cantts are colonial phenomena and Military Stations are better administered.  Cantonment Board employees and assets will be taken over by the neighbouring municipality.

Incidentally, the defence ministry is the largest landowner in the country, with about 17.99 lakh acre.  Of this, approximately 1.61 lakh acre is held within the 62 notified cantonments. The remaining land, around 16.38 lakh acre, is spread across the country and outside the cantonments.

Affairs related to the cantonments, including the construction of new buildings, the height of buildings, commercial conversion, sewage and rest were all controlled by the Cantonment Board.

Asked how much time it will take, sources said cantonments where demarcation is easy, will be done quickly while others will take place in time.

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