Priorities called into question

28 Mar 2011

Acres of land owned by Indian Government underutilised despite lack of schools

A report published on Friday by The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) – an authority which audits and analyses the expenses of the Indian Government and associated bodies and organisations – has uncovered that large amounts of government-owned land is being vastly underutilised.

Shortly after the recent residential tower scandal in Mumbai, the morality of the Indian Armed Forces is again under question as it emerged that at least 32 sq km of prime government-owned land, designated for use by the Defence Ministry, has been used for 97 high-end golf courses. These allegations have been torn apart by the global press, who have concentrated on the fact that army authorities ‘earn large amounts of revenue by allowing persons other than service personnel to use these facilities’.

Arguably more shocking revelations however reside in the effect that this immense underutilisation of land will have on the welfare of young people in the region. Elsewhere in the report it is stated that the Local Military Authorities (LMA) in Chandigarh, Barnala, Ropar, Gurgaon and Shimla ‘were not aware of the exact locations of 992.39 acres of land acquired at [these] stations’.

Statistical evidence confirms that 130 million young people aged 5-19 in India are not enrolled in educational facilities, with only 53% of children who do attend school continuing to study past class eight (age 14). A primary factor behind these concerning figures is the severe lack of education facilities in India, and whilst the government currently owns and manages 78% of the country’s institutions, The Business Standard recently reported that ‘setting up a conventional school with current prices of land is not feasible within most metropolitan city limits’.

Section 3.8.2 of the CAG document concentrates on the leasing of Defence Ministry land to private organisations for educational purposes, namely the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES). Use of Defence Military land for schooling is permitted if necessary facilities are unavailable in the local vicinity, however various irregularities were discovered by CGA where multiple schools were under operation without the necessary regularisation stipulated by the government.

CAG found that several schools were continuing to function ‘despite the Ministry’s assurance to regularise such schools…[and the] passage of considerable time’. Additional unauthorised use of land has included the construction of parks and clubs, guesthouses, shopping centres, restaurants and petrol stations. Multiple cities in India are beginning to establish themselves as economic centres of business and commerce, commissioning impressive examples of contemporary architecture to cement their position in the global marketplace.

HOK London’s bright and airy concept for Bangalore International Airport Terminal One has been received with international acclaim while Naren Kuwadeker & Associates’ lavish design for the Kingdom of Dreams entertainment complex is now in the final throes of construction. Only recently WAN reported that India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani had completed his excessive new private residence in Mumbai costing a startling $1bn.

While many countries are continuing to flounder in the present economic climate, India is continuing to strengthen its position as a contender in the commercial market. The stimulation of young minds is an integral part of any country’s industrial development, and with a shortage of schools one is led to question the longevity of India’s commercial climb.

Final recommendations by CAG include: ‘The Ministry should take a serious view of officers turning a blind eye to the unauthorised use of Defence land for years on end. It should monitor the cases closely so that due to administrative lethargy, Defence land is not encroached upon or allowed to be misused by private bodies’ and ‘The Ministry should frame policies with regard to abandoned lands and implement them strictly to put such lands to better public use in a time bound manner.’


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