A politician has waged a war against the Army and the defence ministry contending that he is being "victimised".
The leader, BJP MP Suresh Angadi, is facing allegations of setting up an engineering college on land notified for the army training ground (firing range) in Belgaum, northwest Karnataka. The defence ministry has issued him several notices seeking the control of the land.
Angadi has vehemently contested the charge saying the college - Angadi Institute of Management and Technology - is his private property built on land acquired from farmers in 2001. The institute has been running since 2004.
The MP has, in fact, claimed that the Karnataka government's notification to give the land to the Army for firing range is "illegal".
He has submitted petitions to the defence ministry seeking shifting of the training ground as it is "within the city limits".
According to Angadi, the range is causing immense hardship to the people in nine villages in the area. The only road passing through the range is blocked every time there is firing session, resulting in transportation problem for the villagers.
At present, the Army is in possession of 523 acres of land of the 7,000-plus acres notified by the state government between 2002 and 2004. "When I acquired the land (30 acres) from the farmers, neither the army nor the state government objected to it. Now they are making an issue out of it. I was not even an MP when I acquired the land for the college," Angadi said.
Angadi said he had raised the issue with minister of state for defence Pallam Raju during the last session of Parliament and spoken to Defence Minister A.K. Antony earlier, but nothing has been done so far.
According to Angadi, several farmers have also become "victims" of land acquisition. "The notification is not at all clear. Even now, they (farmers) are approaching me with petitions. Who will listen to their plights? The local army officers are misguiding the defence ministry," he said.
He further alleged that the army is biased. "There are several other buildings in the notified area. The Army has issued NOC to them. Why am I being singled out? There is a certain amount of bias against me," he said.
The Army, meanwhile, is jostling for space so that its troops can practice firing.
The population pressure has put constraints on land use in other areas as well.
The Army's firing ranges have come down from 104 to 66. Around a dozen of these ranges are acquired while others are notified by the state governments for army use for a certain period.
The Army's attempt to acquire the land for manoeuvre ranges for tanks has also hit the wall. It wants to have two ranges, one near Jaisalmer and the other in Narainpur in Madhya Pradesh. In Jaisalmer, the army was allotted land but later it was discovered that an oil company had been allocated an exploration block in the same area. The acquisition of land in Narainpur has materialised only recently.
A parliamentary panel has expressed concern over the shortage of firing ranges for the army. The defence ministry is finding ways to resolve the issue through discussions with different state governments.
The issue was also discussed during the commanders' conference that concluded on Wednesday.
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