Camp, 29th January 2024: Following the recent sealing of four Old Grant Bungalows (OGBs) in the Pune cantonment area, Saurav Ray, the Director of Defence Estates for the Southern Command, has taken decisive action. Ray directed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) to temporarily suspend all ongoing construction activities in these bungalows.
According to a senior official from the cantonment board, Ray expressed concern in his letter to the CEO about illegal purchasers fraudulently obtaining sanctions from the board by suppressing crucial information related to the recorded Holder of Occupancy Rights (HORs).
The directive specifies that construction work can only resume after a swift verification of HOR credentials, along with confirmation from the Inspector General of Registration records/documents. This confirmation is necessary to ensure that no illegal sales have transpired for the concerned bungalows and their respective General Lands Register (GLR) survey numbers.
This step is deemed critical as it aims to unveil any illicit activities related to the sale and purchase of prime defence land, as noted by defence officials. Pune Cantonment boasts 290 OGBs, each valued in hundreds of crores of rupees at current market rates, with sizes varying from one acre to four acres.
Additionally, the Director has instructed the CEO to provide a comprehensive list of all building sanctions granted by the Pune Cantonment Board for bungalows in the Pune cantonment from January 1, 2022, up to January 25, 2024.
Instances have come to light where the HORs applied for property repairs but instead demolished the structures and erected new buildings, a violation of rules. Some HORs have also repurposed the structures for commercial use, contrary to the regulations allowing only minor repairs. Illegal construction, even after rejection by the Local Military Authority (LMA), has been widespread, particularly in commercial establishments and properties.
Notably, there have been cases where HORs sold properties to private entities, primarily builders, and then obtained building permissions from cantonment authorities. This allowed new purchasers to utilize government property for commercial activities.
Expressing dissatisfaction, citizens and activists in Pune cantonment highlighted the inaction of the Pune Cantonment Board authorities. Despite notices sent to various establishments, including restaurants, eateries, and bakeries on MG Road and East Street, which have been using residential properties for commercial gains for many years, no effective measures were taken, as lamented by Rajabhau Chavan, an activist from the Pune Cantonment area.