The defence ministry has approved changes to land transfer rules that will allow the armed forces to receive infrastructure equivalent in value to the land under their control which is needed for public utilities. The move is expected to reduce the defence forces’ expenditure on development works, including new offices and housing for soldiers.
Under the new rules on the transfer of defence land for public utilities and public infrastructure projects, the forces will effectively be able to monetise their considerable land holdings for internal use. Until now, land needed for important public works, like roads and railways, could either be exchanged for the land of equivalent value, or in rare cases for payment of market prices.
“NHAI (National Highways Authority of India), metros, state governments can offer equal value infrastructure in lieu of defence land required by them,” defence secretary Ajay Kumar said in a social media post. “Armed forces to benefit as their infrastructure needs get met with the new policy approved by the ministry of defence.”
The defense forces have one of the largest holdings of land in India, spread across states. A recurring problem has been freeing up land for infrastructure. This includes internal roads, metros, and rail networks that in the past took decades to process. A major cause for delay of land transfer in deserving cases was that state governments and public utilities were hard-pressed to find adequate holdings that could be offered for exchange. And, transfer of market value funds could get stuck due to differing opinions on costing and availability of funds.
The new rules provide for land to be transferred in lieu of equal value infrastructure (EVI). In case the EVI is of lesser value than the cost of land, the balance payment would now be transferred to the defense ministry.
As per the rules, the value of land would be determined by a committee headed by the local military authority in cases falling under cantonment zones, and the district magistrate if the land is in other areas.