|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
It is not known whether the scholar who recently wrote the article 'How new military bases could seed new cities and create jobs' recently is on the payroll of Pakistan's ISI or of Beijing or he aims to cash on the greed of politicians to gobble land and make quick buck for themselves, in turn securing for himself a spot in Niti Ayog, NSAB, Adviser to Defence Minister or OSD in PMO. Perhaps he was also egged by Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister under NDA-II mainly focusing on grabbing defence land and empowering the Defence Estates which CAG had termed the most corrupt part of MoD and recommended its disbandment. Perhaps he is also inspired by recent elections that show quantum increase in number of lawmakers with criminal cases. Of the total winners in 2019, 233 parliamentarians (43 per cent) have 'declared' criminal cases against them as compared to 185 (34 per cent) in the Lok Sabha elected in 2014 and 162 (30 per cent) in 2009. Of course they are only charged and given the pace of our justice system nothing should be expected for many years. He recommends India creating over 30 million jobs in the short-term and medium-term by creating 20 military bases in next 15 years. He wouldn't dare comment on thousands of acres of lying surplus with the DRDO-OFB and DPSUs because he knows which side the bread is buttered. He recommends, new military bases can form the nucleus (or the catalyst) for new cities, providing high quality living, schooling and working conditions for the Armed Forces community; these will create a growing spiral of economic activity that can create millions of jobs.
The suggestion that new military bases can form the nucleus for new cities, indicates the hollowness of the thought process – on one hand cantonments are being moved out because cities have grown around them, and concurrently new cities are to come around nucleus of the relocated military bases? The pathetic part is his narrative on the plank of providing "better infrastructure and modern amenities to the families of both officers and the rank and file". He cites estimated value of army land in Bengaluru city in the range of 3 trillion few years back and value of defence land in five big cities upwards of 15 trillion, or 7.5 per cent of GDP. Cantonments and defence land holdings in the next 15 biggest tier-II cities amount to another 15 trillion. According to him, equivalent land 40-100 km away from the city would be available at a fraction of the cost, allowing the surplus to be used for infrastructure development, housing and defence facilities. So shifting parts of old cantonments to new sites can, in a single move, address many policy challenges: create new cities, provide the armed forces with modern facilities and create mass employment without adding to the nation's fiscal burden.
This pundit should confer with Veerappa Moily who as Chief Minister of Karnataka had similar ideas and suggested to the Army that he could provide alternative land elsewhere but when briefed what it would cost to establish the new cantonment and what would be the years of disruption, withdrew without a whimper. Does this scholar-pundit realise that considerable part of family separation of military personnel is forced because of higher education avenues only in some cantonments or does he or his relative propose to operate educational institutions by encroaching land in proposed cantonments, as a former defence minister's spouse is doing? This is just 'one' example since he vaunts for improving quality of life of military personnel. But does he realise the cost of relocating military cantonments notwithstanding his charade of improving quality of life of military personnel. Is his concept of training areas and firing ranges required limited to the jogging machine in his balcony and firing away on his computer? He needs to visit Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh to see for himself why the land offered by the State Government 'two decades back' for locating the Special Forces Training School and an IAF base has not even been fully acquired as yet and what are the other problems. While in Chhattisgarh, he should also visit New Raipur; how this city has come up, continues to grow and how many jobs it has / is creating in the process. His suggestion to relocate 20 military bases in five years needs to be viewed in this context; musings of Sheikh Chilli or hallucinations under influence of weed?
Disruption of 20 military basis to provide 30 million jobs should also be viewed in context of Ng Keng Hooi, CEO and President of China's insurance group AIA telling Indian media that China has created 10 million jobs in the insurance sector alone. Disrupting India Armed Forces for the next few decades suits the collusive anti-India nexus eminently. With Delhi being one of the most polluted cities in the world, wonder why this pundit doesn't recommend relocating the national capital which would earn the government trillions of dollars? Whether the new government will swallow his sweet pill for harvesting quick money by relocating military cantonments remains to be seen. Nirmala Sitharaman as Defence Minister in NDA-II, ensured that proceeds from acquiring defence lands went towards governments' Consolidated Fund, not the Defence Budget as Army had expected for much needed modernisation. So where is the money going coming for new cantonments and in what time frame? Is this scholar recommending Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas aur Fauj ka Satyanash?
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.