Soon, temporary water connections for areas under restricted zone of IAF ammunition depot

Courtesy – TNN

The Urban Local Bodies department of Haryana has given green signal for temporary water supplies to the families living in 900 metre restricted zone around the Indian Air Force (IAF) ammunition depot in Gurgaon. The residents living in the restricted zone around are deprived of basic civic amenities; the temporary water supply will end the dependence of residents on ground water and water tankers.
The area of 900m around the ammunition depot in Gurgaon covers around 2,325 acres area and has 14,154 structures. The built-up area is around 692 acres.

Gurgaon ammunition depot has strategic importance in the northern region and is ideal for transportation of armaments in case of a two-front war. It is most convenient for foreign receipts due to availability of air bridging facility in the vicinity, which proved very convenient during the Kargil operations.

A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by one Suresh Goyal before Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2010 seeking removal of constructions from 100-metre area around Air Force Station, Dabua in Faridabad, which is a protected zone under provisions of the Work of Defence Act. HC had also taken cognizance of a similar matter of on the construction activities within the restricted zone of 900m of the ammunition depot of IAF in Gurgaon.

“Large numbers of people are living in this area and they are deprived of basic civic amenities. The matter of restricted zone is pending before court for many years, so we cannot keep large number of people thirsty,” said MLA Umesh Agrawal adding that water will be supplied to the residents till the final order of the court.

He said temporary water supply project will cost Rs 3 cr. Water will be supply through two overhead water tanks and Huda has promised to give land for it. “One overhead tank will be constructed near Tau Devilal Park in sector 22,” said Agrawal.

The temporary water supply to 10,368 owners/occupiers within 900m of the IAF ammunition depot will further complicate the matter. “Removal is a sensitive issue, which may create law and order problem. It includes Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL), other small/large industrial units in Sector 18, residential/commercial area in Sector 14 and small residential belt in Sector 17,” said senior government official.

Haryana government had stated in 2011 that factories like MUL and Electric City in the said area were providing economic impetus to Gurgaon, which made this restricted belt vulnerable to urbanization and industrial growth, resulting in encroachments.

Six-member committee headed by additional secretary, ministry of urban development, had recommended that it would be appropriate to reduce the prohibited zone near the Gurgaon ammunition depot from 500m to 600m for public traffic route.
The committee, comprising experts from various central ministries and the Haryana government, was formed in March 2014 following the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court to discuss and suggest a solution to the encroachment related to ammunition depots in Gurgaon and Faridabad.
If the recommendations of the committee are accepted, around 8,000 structures around the Air Force depot in Gurgaon would be regularized. The area of 900m around the ammunition depot in Gurgaon covers around 2,325 acres area and has 14,154 structures. The built-up area is around 692 acres.
Under the 500m radius, 1,131 acres are covered and there are 6,275 structures. The built-up area is spread over 283.89 acres.

IAF zone: Govt seeks land info from Maruti

Courtesy TNN

The district administration has asked Maruti Udyog Ltd to submit land ownership documents of its plant located on the old Delhi-Gurgaon Road.

The information, according to officials in the administration, has been sought “urgently” from the car manufacturer as part of the exercise to survey installations within a 900-metre-radius of the IAF ammunition depot, an area classified as restricted but now home to thousands of families nevertheless.

Officials said portions of the plant come within that zone and the information had been sought to ascertain how much area it stands to lose even if the ambit of the restricted area is reduced from 900 metres to 300, as has been suggested by a committee appointed by the Punjab and Haryana high court.

The next court hearing is on February 9. “We have asked Maruti officials to submit information regarding ownership of land as some of its area falls within the restricted zone. Once we have that, we will know how much area the plant could lose in case the high court directs us to reduce the restricted area to 300 metres,” said a senior district official.

A spokesperson for Maruti said, “We have responded to the state authorities with the requested documents.”

The administration is hoping for an amicable solution. “All the district heads feel that even if the area is reduced to 300 metres, around 634 acres of land will have to be acquired, apart from paying a compensation of Rs 3,500 crore to those residents who will have to be relocated. This is a huge figure, and therefore, not workable. We hope the high court orders that the ammunition depot be shifted from its present location,” said another official.

IAF happy with checks on illegal construction

Courtesy: TNN

Indian Air Force officials have expressed satisfaction over measures taken by the district administration to prevent illegal construction within the restricted area of 900 metres of the IAF ammunition depot, in a meeting with deputy commissioner T L Satyaprakash on Friday.

“Our teams are keeping a check on any kind of illegal construction in the restricted area. The district administration is also looking into complaints of unauthorized constructions in the area. Any illegal structure will be razed off as soon as it is reported and strict action, including lodging of an FIR, will be taken against violators,” said Satyaprakash in the meeting.

On the role of police, deputy commissioner Sangeeta Kalia, who was present in the meeting, assured the IAf officials that prompt action would be taken “if any illegal activity in the restricted zone is reported to the police”.

In a recent meeting with the principal secretary to Haryana chief minister, Satyaprakash and MCG chief commissioner Vikas Gupta informed him that the expert committee, constituted by the Punjab and Haryana high court, had suggested that the restricted area should be kept only up to 300 metres.
The district administration has to prepare a report and submitted it to the high court on February 9.

A Way Forward for IAF Ammunition Depot

Source: Friday Gurgaon by Col Tej S Dalal (Retd.)

The Air Force Ammunition Depot in Gurgaon has been in the news for the last few years – for ‘civic’ reasons. Almost everybody seems to want the Depot to be shifted out, though for different reasons. The State Govt. believes that if the area of the Depot is vacated, it could make an International  Golf Course there. The politicians want it to be shifted out so that they can develop a vote bank of the people currently residing there on an ‘unauthorised basis’. The land mafia wants the Depot to be shifted out so that they can ‘develop’ a mini-Gurgaon there. The Depot came into existence on the outskirts of Gurgaon when there was jungle all around – barring a few villages. It was considered a ‘safe’ and convenient location for an Air Force unit or an Ammunition Depot. Over the years, as the town grew, so did the dwellings around the Depot. The Defence of India Act prohibits any construction activity around a Govt. building. The distance varies, depending on the nature of the establishment. For an Ammunition Depot, considering the need for the safety of both the local citizens and the installation, there must be an adequate safety perimeter all around it. An Ammunition Depot fire can be very dangerous, as after a point the only fire fighting possible is to take cover or run. In the 1986 Ammunition Depot fire in Jabalpur, the local authorities  had to order the entire town to be evacuated; there have been similar experiences at Bharatpur, Bikaner and Birdhwal. Fortunately there were no civilian casualties in any of these fires, because there had been no ‘encroachment’ within the safety perimeters around these ammunition dumps. However, the loss in terms of ammunition and the defence preparedness of our Forces can be unimaginable. If the Air Force is today insisting on a clear zone around the Gurgaon Depot, it is clearly also in the interest of the civil population living around it. The Depot did not locate itself inside a residential area; it is in fact the other way round. The callousness of the Civil Administration has allowed dwellings to come up, for years, around the Depot perimeter, despite the provisions of the Defence of India Act.

While a number of solutions have been suggested to resolve the issue, they have mostly not given thought to why the Depot is, or has to be, there. The most seemingly easy and lucrative solution, suggested by the Administration as well as the politicians, has therefore been to shift the Depot out to some wilderness. Will this yardstick be applied to all the Ammunition Depots of the Armed Forces throughout the country? Should the placement of ammunition, basically for the need of a war, be decided by a town administration? Would security forces have to wait for days to embark on an airborne operation, because the ammunition could not reach them in time from some far-flung, in the wilderness, depot? Can you imagine an emergency wherein the troops are ready to embark on a mission, the aircrafts are ready but the vital ammunition is stuck in transit from some god-forsaken place? The Punjab & Haryana High Court had given a judgment in the case of an Ammunition Depot located on the outskirts of Ludhiana, saying that all unauthorised structures around the Depot perimeter should be demolished – and they were. Why are the politicians then trying to mislead the public here and not advising them of the correct situation and legal angle? All for a handful of votes? Or, is the value of real estate in Gurgaon so enticing that the politicians, administration and builders believe that they can even risk national security – as well as possibly look to compromise the judiciary? 

A solution to the ‘problem’ has to, foremost, keep the operational requirements of the Air Force in mind. Trying to apply political or public pressure in not called for, and would be counter-productive. We have to accept that if the Air Force is not willing to shift the Depot, it  would be having  very valid operational reasons. By allowing new construction to continue for years (and even as of now), despite Court orders,  the vested interests are only jeopardising the safety of the population around the Depot. They, and the people, must also realise that it is not the Depot that is being threatened by them, but it is rather the other way round. However, the Air Force authorities must also try to reasonably consider that while the clearing of the unauthorised construction up to a certain distance (say 300 meters or so) from the outer perimeter of the Depot may be possible, the demolition of the entire colony up to 900 meters may not be a administratively or politically possible at this belated stage – and may well not be an option now. A possible solution could be a mix of ammunition placement inside the Depot and the use of traverses. The more hazardous ammunition could be accommodated in the inner circle, perhaps even in underground bunkers. Of course, it depends upon the nature of the soil, the water level and other technical parameters. On the outer ring, ammunition of low hazard division could be kept towards areas where the outer distance available is less. These flexible perimeter distances must be measured from the outer most ammunition shed (and not the outer perimeter). The outer distances can also be reduced by going in for heavy traverses around the sheds/bunkers. The Administration must also, with the help of the Air Force, take aerial photographs of the area around the Depot (if not already done). And finally, once a reduced perimeter distance is arrived at by the Air Force, the Administration must ensure that this area is cleared of all construction urgently – within a very short time frame.  The govt. would do well to begin reviewing such regulations, since availability of land is getting scarcer across the country. It should also look at new technology  for the security of installations and the storage of explosives and ammunition. Meanwhile, the restricted areas around such important installations should be visibly demarcated and notified, so that such conflicts of interest do not arise elsewhere.