May 15, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether derecognising cantonments is the right move by the government. We also look at an emerging tourist spot in Kashmir, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is derecognising cantonments the right move by the government?
If you or someone you know has served in the Indian Armed Forces or has been part of the military establishment, the concept of a cantonment might sound familiar. They’re military-civilian townships that were first established when India was under British rule.
The government is taking a hard look at these and wants to abolish them and transform them into military stations, with the civilian population coming under local municipalities. The first on the chopping block is Yol in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district. While some favour this move, in continuance of India shedding colonial remnants, others aren’t convinced.
Cantonments were essential in shaping colonial territorial governance during the 18th and 19th centuries. How did they come to be? In the wake of their victory over Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the East India Company set up cantonments across India. The first was in Barrackpore near Calcutta in 1765.
Cantonments are rooted in European military practices. For the British, they were seen as permanent military bases. Initially, they were unique to India. Although scattered across the subcontinent, they were concentrated in the north under the Bengal Presidency. They were versatile locations that could be enclosed garrisons, massive camps, or sanitarium hill stations.
As cantonments spread, they enabled the army to disengage from local populations and still co-inhabit territory. This detachable quality was deliberate. The British believed this would allow them to control a cantonment’s internal growth. These evolved into unique, permanent urban complexes that showcased the East India Company’s confidence in maintaining stability in the Bengal and Bihar regions.
The army was able to establish laws that governed each cantonment conclave. That usually involved exclusion or differentiation of the population and practices within the territories. To put it simply, maintain control and dominance over colonised regions. They were governed by the Indian Cantonment Act. The Cantonments Act was enacted in 1924.
Cantonments have been in the news in the past. In 2018, the Defence Ministry ordered the opening of roads in cantonments. It began in Secunderabad. The Local Military Authority (LMA) closed multiple roads in colonies around cantonments. In places like Secunderabad, Delhi, and Pune, residential colonies have grown around cantonments. Older cantonments have markets and schools within them.
Now, the government wants to split these cantonments in two – taking out the so-called civil areas, handing them over to states, and converting the remaining areas into military stations. Will this be beneficial to all parties?
VIEW: A win-win
Part of the government’s thinking is to move away from the archaic practice of cantonments. Keep in mind, cantonments were mainly military posts that became more urbanised in the decades since their establishment. From a national security standpoint, the question is, does the close proximity to civilian areas compromise the purpose of cantonments? Perhaps, it could make spying and infiltration easier.
As cantonments have become increasingly integrated within city boundaries and, in some cases, situated near city centres, there has been disorganised growth in the adjacent areas due to poor development strategies. Cantonments have large swaths of unoccupied land. By the government’s estimate, 1.61 lakh acres. Handing over civilian areas within cantonments to urban local bodies will ensure the optimal use of the land, especially in places like Delhi.
The provisions concerning building or rebuilding structures within cantonments were strict. For example, Section 235 of the Cantonment Act requires citizens to notify even if they want to make alterations or convert a building space. Add to that, every cantonment also has its own set of bylaws. Amalgamation with civic bodies will be a boon for residents to build better structures and not be constricted. Civilians can also access government welfare schemes provided by municipalities and local bodies.
COUNTERVIEW: Who will it really benefit?
Let’s start with whether the government’s proposal is practical. The process involves segregating the cantonment into military and civilian areas, which is easier said than done. It’s because of the comingling of civilian and military elements like population and civic amenities. It remains to be seen how such agreements can be drawn up between the Defence Ministry and local bodies.
One of the government’s given reasons is civilians enjoying the fruits of welfare schemes. It would mean splitting the welfare pie between a larger number of beneficiaries. The financial positions of states aren’t the most healthy, and most central schemes mandate percentages of contribution by state governments. There hasn’t been much reporting on civilians wanting to leave cantonments. Why would they, when they’re well-managed with better infrastructure?
So who’s going to benefit from all of this? The rich undoubtedly will from the exploitation of civic areas by the real estate bigwigs. Take the Yol cantonment. The army has been pushing for its denotification. There are large chunks of private land inside where senior officers have bungalows and a housing colony with 80 homes. What’s likely to happen is land sharks will lie in wait, and local politicians with vested interests, real estate, and military connections will benefit.
- Cantonments to go as curtains come down on ‘archaic colonial practice’, Yol in Himachal first in line – The Print
- The Battle for Cantonment Roads: Civilians VS Army – The Quint
- Dismantling Cantonments, Decolonising India’s Public Spaces – NDTV
- All cantonments to be disbanded, will be made military stations – Times of India
- The debate on derecognition of cantonments – Times of India
- Converting cantonments like Yol can reap benefits – only if govt is transparent in its dealings – The Print
- Politicians’ Insatiable Appetite For Defence Land – The Citizen
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The government’s move to derecognise cantonments is the right move.
b) The government’s move to derecognise cantonments is the wrong move.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
BJP started a pointless battle in Delhi, officers followed. Supreme Court verdict first step
For the Left:
Banning ‘The Kerala Story’ Serves No Purpose, That Is Not The Way of Democracies
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Another emerging tourist hotspot (Kashmir) – The village of Zurimanz, also known as Bangladesh, located in the Bandipora district of North Kashmir, is gradually gaining popularity as a tourist destination. This hidden gem is situated along the banks of the magnificent Wular Lake, offering stunning natural beauty and a serene atmosphere for visitors seeking a peaceful escape. As one of the largest freshwater lakes in South Asia, Wular Lake provides a breathtaking backdrop for tourists to engage in various activities, including boating, fishing, and birdwatching.
Why it matters: The beauty of the village has drawn the attention of tourists from various parts of India, who are flocking to witness its awe-inspiring allure. The locals are delighted at the prospect of their village becoming a popular tourist destination. To further promote tourism at Wular Lake, two brothers from Zurimanz hamlet have constructed the first-ever shikara and launched it in the lake. In addition to the efforts of the locals, the government is committed to providing better facilities and promoting sustainable tourism in the region.
Motorised boats put Ada on the roadmap (Telangana) – The Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation (TSTDC) has successfully transformed an unexplored spot into a popular tourist destination by utilising locally available resources. The introduction of a motorised boat ride facility at the picturesque Kumram Bheem major irrigation project in Ada village, Asifabad, has generated an overwhelming response from visitors. Until 2022, the spot in the middle of the village, near the backwaters of the irrigation project, remained abandoned and neglected. However, it has now become a bustling location.
Why it matters: Plans are underway to construct a children’s park, restaurant, and cottages near Ada village, providing visitors with a complete package of fun and relaxation in a scenic setting. The transformation of Kumram Bheem major irrigation project into a popular tourist destination highlights the potential of developing lesser-known locations through sustainable tourism. The development of tourism infrastructure can improve the visitor experience and boost the local economy while preserving and promoting the area’s natural and cultural heritage.
HC cancels employment of 36,000 educators (West Bengal) – The Calcutta High Court has cancelled the appointment of 36,000 primary school teachers in West Bengal who were recruited in 2016 after clearing the state’s teacher eligibility test in 2014. The court has directed the West Bengal Board of Primary Education to conduct a fresh recruitment exercise within three months, specifically for candidates who were untrained at the time of their previous recruitment. This includes candidates who have obtained training qualifications since then.
Why it matters: The court has also instructed that both the interview and aptitude test of all examinees must be conducted and carefully videographed, with no new candidates allowed to take part in the recruitment test. Former Education Minister of the Trinamool Congress government, Partha Chatterjee, and his aide Arpita Mukherjee were arrested in August 2022 over the alleged recruitment scam. The court order has allowed the affected teachers to continue working for the next four months, albeit with a reduced salary equivalent to para-teachers. The action was taken after several petitions were filed against the poor quality of teachers.
Heat waves result in water scarcity (Rajasthan) – Severe heatwave conditions in Rajasthan’s Churu district have intensified the drinking water crisis, pushing residents to stand in long queues to get a pot or two of water. The government’s supply remains inadequate, forcing many to resort to private tankers to meet their basic needs. Netram Gurjar, a resident of Fatehpur town, revealed that some individuals have even resorted to illegal borewells to quench their thirst, adding to the woes of the parched state.
Why it matters: In the remote village of Ganeshwar near Neem Ka Thana in Sikar, women and girls endure a gruelling early morning trek of 10 km just to fetch a pot or two of drinking water from a government-installed borewell. Despite repeatedly petitioning the authorities, no action has been taken to alleviate the situation. For the past few days, BJP councillors in Sujjanpur have been staging a protest against the lack of water supply in the area. In an act of frustration, the councillors stormed the office of the junior engineer of PHED, only to find him absent. As a symbolic gesture, they placed water pots on his chair and plastered the walls with their demands for immediate action.
Following riots, Kuki MLAs demand separation (Manipur) – Frustration with the state government’s inability to protect the Chin-Kuki-Zomi tribals has led all 10 MLAs from the Kuki community in Manipur, including two ministers in the current government, to demand a separate administration. This bold move follows recent clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities that claimed over 70 lives in the state. The demand for autonomy underscores the need to address the concerns of minority communities and find sustainable solutions to promote peaceful coexistence in the region.
Why it matters: In a statement, the MLAs claimed to represent the aspirations of their people and said they seek peaceful coexistence with the state of Manipur, but under a different administration. The ministers decried the violence and said that their community could no longer tolerate living amidst the Meiteis. These MLAs make up half of the seats allotted to the tribal population of the state, who live in 90% of the geographical area of Manipur. The ethnic clashes have razed the lives of countless Manipuris, and things got to a level where police had received the clearance to “shoot at sight” to quell the riots.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$2 billion – Experts claim that India’s Energy Import Bill could be reduced by $2 billion by tapping 10% of Coal Bed Methane Reserves.