Pune, 27th January 2024: In response to perceived threats on his life, Saurav Ray, Director of Defence Estates in the Southern Command, Pune, has been provided with armed security by the Pune city police. The heightened security measures come in the context of an ongoing investigation into the fraudulent sale and sealing of four bungalows in Pune Cantonment, estimated to be worth Rs 350 crores, with an additional fifteen under scrutiny by the Defence Estates Office, Pune Circle.
According to Pune Police Commissioner Retesh Kumaarr, an armed policeman has been deployed to provide security to Ray based on his request and a comprehensive review of the sensitive positions within the central government departments he has previously served. The security measures have been implemented in light of his current responsibilities in handling the defence land bungalows sealing case.
Saurav Ray, a 1994 batch Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES) officer, previously served on deputation to India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for over a decade, and as the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, Ministry of Home Affairs, from Aug 2020 till May 2023. Known for exposing the infamous Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai, Ray faced repercussions for resisting the transfer of valuable defence land in Ahmednagar Cantonment also in 1997. For exposing the scams, he was given ‘punishment’ posting in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. From 2016 to 2019, he served as the Director of Defence Estates at Eastern Command, Kolkata.
Ray, in his capacity as Defence Estates Director, Southern Command, issued orders to take strict action against the fraudulent sale of old grant bungalows in the cantonment. On December 6, he wrote to the Inspector General of Registration and Stamps of Maharashtra State government, urging an immediate halt to the sale of bungalows on defence land, citing their status as central government properties ineligible for private ownership.
The Pune cantonment boasts around 300 bungalows, along with schools and clubs like Turf Club and New Poona Club, leased out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to private entities for periods ranging from 30 to 90 years, based on adherence to lease conditions. Similarly, the Khadki cantonment oversees sixty old grant bungalows within its jurisdiction.
The Defence Estates Office, Pune, has identified at least fifteen old grant bungalow properties that have been sold to influential individuals and real estate developers over the past few decades. The investigation into the unauthorized and fraudulent sale of these properties has revealed issues of corruption, nepotism, and favoritism, causing concern among authorities.
Members of civil society in Pune City and the cantonment are calling for the establishment of a nationwide task force by the union government to investigate the fraudulent sale of over 4000 old grant defence bungalows, valued at over 2 lakh crore rupees. Central and military agencies are also scrutinizing deals worth hundreds of crores of rupees.