Defence ministry amending Act to open up defence land

The defence ministry has started the process of bringing about amendments to `The Works of Defence Act, 1903' that limits the use and enjoyment of land in the vicinity of defence works.

Disclosing this at a meeting of the consultative committee attached to his ministry, defence minister AK Antony said the amemdments are intended to accommodate the needs of the changing times. He said all stakeholders will be consulted and the process will be completed at the earliest.

The 109-year-old provides for imposing restrictions on of the use of defence property so that such land may be kept free from buildings and other obstructions.

Several members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, have been of the view that the Act of 1903 is proving to be a painful one for those civilians living close to defence depots because of its stringent and restrictive provisions.

While agreeing with their concerns, Antony said the government is taking a number of measures to address the issues surrounding the Act. He said the problem is historical in nature. The defence establishments, especially the defence depots, were set up over a century ago in deep jungles or vacant lands far away from settlements.

However, over the years, human activity and habitation have expanded and in certain areas these have come very close to the depots. Antony said the government has decided that all depots will be modernised and brought on par with the best practices being followed in some of the advanced countries of the world.