Enemy Within- Encroachment at Secunderabad Cantonment in the name of Religion.
This is an encroachment of Defence land of a different kind. Here there is no ‘much abused Land Mafia’ from the Civil Society. No tainted Politician. No ‘Steal Frame’ bureaucrat. It is being perpetrated by the very reputed highly decorated Generals who are entrusted with the noble tasks to protect the honour of our sovereign country. Those highly respected highly decorated Generals who are held in high esteem by the fellow countrymen from all walks of life independent of caste, creed, Sects, community and religious inclination. Those Generals have accorded a very high standard for themselves with their motto “The safety, honour & welfare of your country comes first, always & every time. The honour, welfare & comfort of the men you command, come next. Your own ease, comfort & safety come last, always & every time.”
Lt Col retd Haridas Mandal, an RTI Activists from Secunderabad has filed the story.
There are two types of Enemies for a sovereign country like ours. External Enemies for which we maintain a very large Army, train them and keep them on alert 24x7 to take on the evil intention of any one daring to take ‘our land even an equivalent of a needle-head’. And to achieve that the country has to spend a very big slice of it’s GDP towards Defence spending even at the cost of not being able to provide a square of meal to it’s hungry hapless 37 crores poor in the country. Over the years with selection process maintained at a very high standard we were able to keep our Army truly secular as well as apolitical which has deterred any evil design from the external enemy.
The other type of enemy is “the Enemies within”. The religious fundamentalists, the separatists, the armed extremists are a few examples of the ‘enemies within. But worst in this category are the ones who are eating the vitals of our country while holding positions of power in the govt itself. Here is the case where highly empowered highly respected highly decorated Generals holding High offices are indulging in encroaching A1 defence land for commercial purposes in the guise of religious activities of a regular military Unit located at Secunderabad.
Not so long ago Smt Pratibha Patil , the President of India & the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces but to forego her wish to settle post retirement in one of the chosen piece of land at Pune . Simply because it was A1 Defence land and meant for active occupation of the Regular Military Unit. Pl open the link for further information.http://www.moneylife.in/article/ministry-of-defence-had-questioned-precedence-of-allocating-defence-land-for-president-pratibha-patils-retirement-home/25046.html. The issue had been set at rest after Smt Pratibha Patil , the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces denounced her intention to build any house there post retirement held the ‘High standard of our Armed Forces” high. Exactly opposite was seen happening at Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering Secunderabad, one of the most reputed Training Institutions in the Corps of EME (Jokingly known as the Enemies of the Military Equipments). MCEME, Secunderabad is entrusted with the noble tasks to partake advance training to soldier craftsman as well as its officers cadres. It is headed by an officer of the rank of Lt General.
One of her General Officer namely the commandant Military College of EME Secunderabad however had no hassle in encroaching a piece of A1 Defence land . Such encroachments of A1 and analogous defence land which were under the management of the Local Military Authorities and covered under GOI, MoD letter No 11026/5/2000/D (Lands) for construction commercial complexes for monetary gains was routine till it reached its pinnacle and objected by the C & AG (which later brought to the notice of the PAC). Defence Shopping Complexes (Maintenance & Administration) Rules 2006 was issued in a hurry regularising all such illegal structures on Defence Lands. Post publication of the Defence Shopping Complexes (Maintenance & Administration) Rules 2006 there was a lull as it debars the Local Military Authorities to allow any such construction on any A1 defence Land. It also recommended in the eventuality of any violation net revenue generated from the commercial complex thus constructed be deposited with the consolidated funds of India and not to any private, regimental or Non-public funds.
A vast tract of land behind “MCEME unit Gurdwara” and adjacent to Lalbazar Civil Lines was lying vacant, open without boundary walls for a long time. “MCEME unit Gurdwara” was however seen growing bigger in stature thanks to the patronage of the wealthy Sikh Community in and around Hyderabad/ Secunderabad. It became a hot favourite with the city’s rich and famous Sikh Families to solemnise marriages (commonly known as Big Fat weddings) inside the historic MCEME unit Gurdwara exclusively meant for “troops and their families”. Along with the Big Fat wedding parties under the able security arrangements both for the brides and grooms’ kiths and kin came big money in the name of donations cent percent unaccounted for. One may call it a black money inviting wrath from the religiously irreligious community associated with those big fat wedding parties.
For those who are not well aware of the military Rules it is highlighted that a Regimental institution namely a Gurdwara, a Temple, a Church or a Mosque is considered a Regimental Institution meant exclusively for the troops and the families. Those are constructed as well as renovated with the funds made available by the Govt of India Ministry of Defence. Like all other defence accommodations as well as lands allotted to a specific regular military unit those religious regimental institutions are held on charge of the Military Engineer Service ( MES- popularly known as the Money Earning Service) led by its Garrison Engineers. All the defence buildings as per orders of the local military commanders depending on the role and activities of the military units in stations are re-allotted the Military as well as non-military units for regular use. While the Garrison Engineer remains the custodian of all the defence buildings /A1 vacant lands the User Unit is made responsible for its safe custody. Prevention from encroachment of all A1 lands held in temporary charge of the User Unit is the sole responsibility of the local station commander who in turn delegates the responsibility to various regular units based on their strength and weaknesses.
All the defence buildings on the defence land are considered property of the govt of India and are maintained, repaired as well as serviced in entirety from the consolidated funds of India. Similarly MCEME Gurdwara is being maintained and serviced by the Garrison Engineer (South), Military Engineer Service Secunderabad who is the real custodian of all the defence lands and buildings held by the military as well as Non-Military Establishment in his domain. Religious Institutions namely Gurdwara, Temple , Church , Mosques and such others despite being open to non-troops for such commercial activities are still being exempted from paying Licence Fee ( Military equivalent of Rent), Water as well as Electricity charges . In gist ‘MCEME unit Gurdwara’ despite being put to commercial use for holding “ Band Baja Barat” for the highly respected civilian populace of the Hyderabad City were not required to a pay a penny officially for the rents, water and electricity charges. More over all the maintenance and frequent repairs to the building, its sewerages, its water pipe lines and its electrical fitments are to be born by the government of India through the Military Engineer Service who is mandated to ensure compliance of Govt and rules and orders and to check that no orders is violated . On the contrary it is this Agency headed by the Garrison Engineer (South) MES, Secunderabad has ensured that 1000 men capacity Air Conditioned Banquet Hall is provided with the water and Electricity as well as Sewerages. When asked to clarify the Garrison Engineer (
South) has simply tried to palm off his involvement stating that the stated 1000 men capacity Air Conditioned Banquet Hall behind MCEME Unit Gurdwara has not been constructed by MES. That there was no approval for that structure and that no govt funds had been spend through MES for the stated Banquet Hall. He has further stated that prevention of encroachment of a A1 Defence Land is the responsibility of the DEO (Defence Estate Officer).He has however has failed to explain how MES sewerage, water pipe lines and electricity is being provided to such illegally made structure on an encroached A1 land?
The DEO Secunderabad on the other hands maintains that protection of Defence A1 land from encroachment is the responsibility of the local formation commander who is designated DEO for the A1 lands in his cantonment. The User Unit ( MCEME has stated contrary to the claims of the Garrison Engineer (South) Secunderabad that the stated structure is on A1 defence land, it has been constructed from the money accumulated from the donations made by the frequent visitors to the MCEME Unit Gurdwara. That no sanction and prior approval for construction of the 1000 men capacity langar hall was necessary as it was funded from the private funds. It has further stated that no contractor whatsoever had been engaged for construction of that 1000 men capacity Langar hall and had been built by voluntary works.
The Commander Andhra Sub Area, the local formation commander and the designated DEO for the A1 lands under his command when contacted reiterated that the 1000 men capacity Langar Hall is meant for the adjacent Gurdwara and no sanction was necessary to built that huge structure as no govt money had been spend. In other words Military commanders at all levels are eligible to construct any structures of their choice in any Defence A1 land anywhere in the country (including Pane) if privately funded and to get the maintenance , repairs and services free of cost from the consolidated funds of India. Only thing it is to be christened as a Langar Hall. I was not convinced.
The MCEME Gurdwara is a very huge structure with a large hall underneath to cater for Langar Hall a mandatory part of functioning of a Gurdwara. There was no problem to organise Langar for the devotees visiting the Gurdwara in any special or ordinary occasions. However the demand for an “Air Conditioned Langar Hall” to duplicate as the air conditioned Banquet Hall for the Big Fat Weddings could not be ignored. That was the real source of money in crores for the famous MCEME Gurdwara . None questions the amount received or spent inside a religious centre especially when that religious temple happens to be a Gurdwara.
General JJ Singh, a Sikh Officer was posted as the commandant of MCEME and in no time without any approval any sanction, a vast A1 open land adjacent to the Existing Gurdwara was encroached upon dis- respecting any and every Rules in vogue. A 1000 men capacity “Air Conditioned Banquet Hall” was to be constructed on the A1 land to cater to the taste and needs of the special civilian guests attending those big fat weddings solemnised at the infamous MCEME Gurdwara. Money was over flowing from those big fat weddings and deposited in the private kitty. The ROI (Return on Investment) from the privately funded 1000 men capacity Banquet Hall on the encroached A1
defence land in addition to the existing Langar Hall beneath the Gurdwara’s imposing structure was too lucrative to abide petty Govt Rules. The Sikh General did not blink an eyelid and gave his cowered managers in uniform go ahead signal. Thus a 1000 men capacity Air Conditioned Banquet Hall came up privately funded supposedly constructed by the Kar Sevaks in the year 2010-11 exactly when our Supreme Commander was compelled to forgo her post retirement settlement in a piece of A1 land at Pune.
That 1000 men capacity Air Conditioned Banquet Hall has been inaugurated on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima last year with local formation commander, division commanders and who is who from the Secunderabad cantonment in attendance. It was a show of total disregard to the existing rules and regulations of the govt of India, a sovereign country which debars any construction of any structure on any A1 land privately funded independent of its end use. It is irony that those very military commanders are the ones who are entrusted to protect this country from the external enemies. It has now been put to great mis-use for big Fat weddings costing a substantial amount of additional expenditures for maintenance, repairs and services eg water and electricity to the govt exchequers. It has further caused the nation its integrity of its highly respected highly reputed highly decorated Generals, one of whom may adorn the highest seat as the CAOS in the near future.
My communication with the local military auth as RTI activists has yielded no positive result. The military commanders are hell bent on running commercial activities converting each and every vacant defence building into private ventures complexes. There is a trend to construct vast permanent structures on the vacant A1 land for commercial purpose. There are instances where newly constructed buildings meant for proving shelters to sophisticated military Arsenals have been declared rentable without being re-appropriated officially to run more and more private ventures. Shopping Complex (Maintenance and Administration) Rules 2006 debars the military commanders at all levels to construct any commercial complex on the defence land. In the absence of such codified orders it was free for all to encroach and construct such commercial complexes including Band Baja Brat Hall at the prime location on the defence land. Now any such adventurous activity to construct commercial complexes is not yielding desired profits for the military Generals as net revenue from those commercial complexes irrespective of whether being private funded or not is to be deposited with the consolidated funds of India. Root cause for all the evils is the so called private, regimental or Non-public Funds which is being kept outside the purview of OVERSIGHT Committee/ C &AG and being put to great mis-use at all levels. I am sure that PAC / CAG in its final review in Jun 2012 take a note of these great Indian military mis adventures and recommend bringing the private, regimental or Non-public funds generated from mis-use of govt land and property and such resources under the over sight committee vis-a-vis under purview of the CAG audit .