New Delhi, October 31: The Army has begun a survey to determine the acreage of all military farms across the country before taking over their ownership from the Ministry of Defence. Senior officials told IANS on Wednesday, the survey was ordered in accordance with a direction issued by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to hand over all military farms to the Army. The survey is being undertaken across all 39 military farms, jointly with the Directorate General of Defence Estates.
"As per the order issued by the Defence Minister, land of all 39 military farms will be handed over to the Army which will, in turn, use it for purposes of training and construction of military habitats and billeting," a senior Army official told IANS, adding, "The military habitats will be in the form of townships fit for community living." Indian Army Working as Peacekeepers in Jammu And Kashmir: General Bipin Rawat.
The Army has been raising additional requirements of land with the Defence Ministry every year for purposes ranging from establishment of training facilities to housing. The land pool of the 39 military farms -- 14 of which have already been shut down as per an order issued by the Defence Ministry in the year 2017 -- is expected to come in handy for the Army's purposes. From conventional estimates, officials presume the land pool of the 39 military farms will be in the range of 20,000 acres approximately.
As per officials, the 25 military farms which are still in existence, are providing shelter to animals of transport, like mules, and have more than 1,000 civilian employees working on them. The Army draws an annual budget for these military farms, a bulk of which is spent on fodder for the transport animals that includes nearly 25,000 tons of hay.
The military farms have been in existence for more than 100 years and had been set up as part of a British-era legacy with the sole purpose of providing fresh cattle milk and milk products to armed forces personnel living in cantonment areas. The farms had been established by the British rulers at a time when cantonments were cut off from nearby cities and availability of daily necessities was scarce.
"The overhead costs of maintaining cattle at the farms had always been very high. Milk was produced in the farms at a cost that was three to four times higher than that of the milk available in markets," Ajay Kumar, former Principal Director (Defence Estates) of Army's Southwestern Command, told IANS.
In the year 2018, nearly a year after the Defence Ministry ordered for the closure of the military farms, the Army began to dispose of cattle sheltered in the military farms. Till date, cattle from 20 military farms have been handed over to various state governments. A process is simultaneously underway to dispose of moveable and immoveable properties within the farms.
"Land belonging to military farms is precious because cantonments, as well as their neighbouring towns, have expanded disproportionately over the years almost merging with one another. Each major cantonment in the country has a military farm with an area of almost 700 to 800 acres attached to it. These farms had lost their significance long back because of easy availability of fresh milk with increase in transportation facilities," added Kumar.