The Omar Abdullah Government in Jammu and Kashmir has set up a nine-member committee to work out the modalities for the transfer of land to the Army for relocation of two of its camps in Kashmir, besides suggesting options, including short-term lease and relocation of the Army firing and artillery range in the picturesque Tosa Maidan area in central Kashmir.
Secretary,General Administration Department, M A Bukhari said the state government had given its nod for constituting a panel to look into the issues related to the land held by the Army at Gulmarg in North Kashmir and vacating the Army camp at Tatoo Ground in Batamaloo.
The high-power panel consists of the Chief Secretary; Administrative Secretary, Home; Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir; Principal Chief Conservator of Forests; Administrative Secretary, Revenue ; Administrative Secretary, Forest; Administrative Secretary, Tourism Department; representative of the Army’s Northern Command and Principal Director of the Defence Estate, Northern Command.
According to Bukhari, Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday will head the panel.
“The panel shall work out the modalities for transfer of 176 acres of land, which is under the unauthorised occupation of the Army at Gulmarg and land to be exchanged for the Army camp at Tattoo Ground, Batamaloo,” he said.
Furthermore, the committee shall suggest viable options, including short-term lease and relocation of the Tosh Maidan Field Firing Range in central Kashmir district of Budgam. And the panel has been directed to submit its report within three months.
The land at Tosa Maidan was leased out to the Army in 1964 for setting up an artillery firing range. And the 50-year lease period is scheduled to expire in 2014.
As per the official figures, some 63 people had been killed by unexploded shells at the Tosa Maidan meadow in the last 48 years.
Following this the locals, separatist groups and some leaders of the mainstream political parties had been pressing the state government not to extend the lease and convert it (the Tosa Maidan firing range) into a tourist spot.