Pune: Defence Ministry Forms Committees to Expedite Civil Area Excision from Cantonments and Merger with Municipal Corporations

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Pune, 16th January 2024: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken a significant step by establishing two committees, each led by the joint secretary (law and works), to meticulously plan the excision of civil areas from Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) and Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB) and their subsequent integration into adjacent municipal corporations.

The appointed committees, consisting of seven members each, including representatives from the state government, the army, the president of the respective cantonment board, and the chief executive officer, are tasked with finalizing the intricate modalities. These include considerations for land and immovable assets, cantonment funds, employees, pensioners, civil services, moveable properties and stores, road management and traffic, records, and more. A report detailing their findings is expected to be submitted within a month, according to senior officials from the Directorate General Defence Estates (DGDE) in Delhi.

The challenging aspect of the committees’ work lies in carving out civil area pockets, currently prime real estates worth hundreds of crores. Pune Cantonment encompasses approximately 250 acres of civil area pockets across eight wards, while Khadki Cantonment boasts around 150 acres of civil defence land pockets.

The merger process involves the integration of these land pockets with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). However, the task is complicated by restrictions imposed by the Local Military Authority (LMA) on Floor Space Index (FSI) for construction, particularly in areas where security concerns are paramount. The success of this exercise hinges on the ability of army authorities to find viable solutions within these constraints, noted a committee member.

In the case of Khadki Cantonment Board, committee members emphasized the need for the state government to decide which civic body—Pune or Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporations—will absorb the civil pockets of KCB.

Financial considerations have been a driving force behind the decision to merge with municipal corporations. The precarious financial condition of both cantonments over the past few years, coupled with the government’s neglect of their financial needs, has led to a lack of resistance from citizens, who anticipate improved services post-merger, explained a senior DGDE official.

Notably, the MoD had previously announced plans to conduct elections in 62 cantonments across the country last year but abruptly cancelled the initiative. According to an earlier statement from a senior Director General of Defence Estates official, the merger process is time-consuming due to stringent conditions set by the Local Military Authority, ensuring compliance post-merger. Concerns also revolve around the financial burden of pensions on the state, as a significant number of cantonment employees are set to retire in the coming year.

This development reflects a critical juncture in the evolution of these cantonment areas and their integration into the urban fabric of adjacent municipalities.