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'Defence Min should lease out unutilised land'

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 23: In view of non-availabilty of land proving a threat to the country's developing retail saga, industry body Assocham has suggested the Defence Ministry to lease out 17 lakh acre of unutilised land spread over 62 cantonments to retail outlets.

The chamber has called upon the ministry to provide the land which Directorate General of Defence Estate (DGDE) has in possession for 50 years for development of the showrooms by retail majors.

In a paper on Outsourcing Possibilities in Defence Sector: Unlocking the True Wealth submitted to the Defence Minister by the chamber's President Venugopal N Dhoot, it has been highlighted that of the 17 lakh hectare of land, 9,000 acre of land spread over in 17 states including Delhi, is under encroachment.

The chamber called for immediate claim of the area by the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Dhoot added that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) can do wonders with this land and drastically reduce its dependence on budgetary allocations by leasing this land to retail chains, either in private or joint sector.

''With Indian majors like Bharti, Reliance, Essar taking up agro-farming and retailing in a major way and foreign players eager to share the Indian Retail pie, the defence land can be utilised for better productivity,'' the paper said. Reliance has entered into collaboration with Punjab Agro Food Corporation so that farm and retail linkages with local communities can be executed with ease. Punjab will become the company's agricultural hub as well as mainstream centre. It has also picked up 2,000 acre of land across Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amrtisar and Sangrur.

Essar is further the largest exporter in the country of floriculture products, leading to huge earnings of Foreign Exchange.

Bio-fuel plants can also be grown on the land, which would help Defence forces extract diesel for its fleet of vehicles and reduce its dependence on state-owned oil companies, added Mr Dhoot.

This simple move can generate massive revenues for the Defence Ministry, which can be ploughed back into the sector and utilised for the development and maintenance of defence services, ordnance and equipment and the defence personnel, Assocham said.

The chamber has also suggesetd that Defence Distribution Network is one major area where outsourcing can be ventured.

With the total Defence Services expenditure increased from Rs 89,000 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 96,000 crore in 2007-08, India is among the top ten countries in terms of defence expenditure.


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