In a major development, the Narendra Modi government has decided to ease the restrictions on the construction of high-rise buildings close to Army Camps or Defence establishments from 500 metres to 10 metres. On October 21, the Deputy Director Lands issued this landmark circular to all the Service Chiefs and Defence establishments on behalf of the Defence Ministry.
In 2011, the UPA government had made it mandatory to obtain a no- objection certificate (NOC) if any construction activity was to be taken up within 500 metres of any Army Camp or Defence establishment.
In his letter, Deputy Director G C Srivastava, said that security restrictions with respect to Defence establishments or installations located at 193 stations as listed in Part A of Annexure to the circular shall apply up to 10 meters from the outer wall of such Defence establishments or installations to maintain a clear line of sight for effective surveillance. Any construction or repair activity within such restricted zone of 10 meters will require prior NOC from the Local Military Authority (LMA)/ Defence establishments.
Security restrictions with respect to Defence establishments or installations located at 149 stations as listed in Part B of Annexure to the circular shall apply up to 100 meters from the outer wall of such Defence establishments or installations to maintain clear line of sight for effective surveillance.
Any construction or repair activity within such restricted zone between 50 to 100 meters will require prior NOC from the Local Military Authority (LMA) or Defence establishments.
Recently, the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra decided to withdraw a four-year-old circular to ease restrictions on construction activity on land near defence establishments across Maharashtra. The move is mainly aimed at removing hurdles in the redevelopment of homes situated in the vicinity of defence land.
In the wake of south Mumbai-based Adarsh housing society controversy, the Maharashtra government had on November 4, 2010, issued a circular making it mandatory for land owners, societies, and developers taking up construction activity near defence land to obtain a prior NOC from defence authorities.
At that time, the Ministry of Defence and the Maharashtra government were locked in a dispute over the ownership of land on which the controversial housing society stood. A government-appointed judicial panel has since ruled that the state owned the housing society plot.
The blanket NOC requirement, which was then made applicable for all such projects in Mumbai, however, also ended up stalling the redevelopment process for over 10,000 people in the middle -class pockets in Western and Eastern suburbs of Mumbai, leading to demand its withdrawal.
A letter from the military headquarters, Bengal Area, had rattled civic bosses in Kolkata earlier as well.
It prohibits high-rises in a radius of 500 metres from military establishments in 18 locations in the city and Salt Lake — from Ballygunge to Baranagar and from Dum Dum to Dakshineswar. The Army later issued a statement saying they had not barred construction but builders were required to get an NOC from the local military authority.
Going by the letter, KMC and other municipalities concerned couldn’t approve building plans in the specified areas. “There are several applications from these areas for building plan sanction,” an officer in the KMC building department said.
Two such projects are within 500 metres of the Alipore Ordnance Depot — a 40-storey residential highrise on Diamond Harbour Road and a 24-storey building on DL Khan Road. These two projects would have augmented KMC coffers at least Rs 50 crore, say sources.
This is not the first such letter from the Army. Some time ago, Fort William had asked KMC to stop construction of a highrise at Hastings, close to the Bengal Area headquarters. KMC honoured the request.
States seem to have varying stands on this law. The Andhra Pradesh government has followed it, making it mandatory for builders to get NOC from the military for constructions near defence pockets/ military establishments. The Maharashtra government, on the other hand, has already written to the defence ministry to lift the ban.
Strangely, two decades ago, the military had a different stand. A brigadier had then proposed to sell off the club tents on Kolkata Maidan and allow real estate development on a portion of Maidan. It was shot down by the top brass.