Navy Seeks to Oust Squatter Army From Prime Delhi Plot

A major hurdle for the Navy is to get the land vacated of its existing establishments, belonging to the Army
Navy Seeks to Oust Squatter Army From Prime Delhi Plot

NEW DELHI: Away from the high seas, the Indian Navy has won a battle of sorts after 20 long years, wresting a key piece of land for building its headquarters in leafy Lutyen’s Delhi.

 However, there is still a lot of ground the force has to cover before its coveted headquarters takes shape. As of now, the Navy is ready to lay the foundation stone for the new building on 5.41-acres on August 20. It is also ready with a blueprint for the construction of the headquarters at an estimated cost of `400 crore.

 The land that has been identified is on Rajaji Marg, behind DRDO Bhavan and opposite Sena Bhavan. Close to Raisina Hills, the plot is just a stone’s throw away from South Block and is located diagonally opposite to the official residence of the British High Commissioner to India.

But the major hurdle before the Navy is to get the land vacated of its existing establishments, all belonging to the Army. The Army has been holding on to the land, which actually belongs to Urban Development Ministry.

 Apart from a parking lot on the premises for vehicles used by armed forces officers working at Sena Bhavan, the land also houses an Army canteen and a few commercial establishments such as tea vending outlets, all occupying the World War-II hutments that were established there by the British as their military barracks.

 “The biggest challenge is to get the land vacated so that work on the Naval headquarters can start. But implementation of that work is now at the door of the Ministry of Defence,” said a senior Navy officer.

 The task of identifying land for the Navy has been a work in progress for two decades now and one of the plots that was proposed for it long ago was the where the mammoth DRDO Bhavan stands today. “But there was no concrete, formal allotment of that land to the Navy. Hence it would be incorrect to claim that it was ours,” said another officer.

 At present, the Navy’s establishments in Delhi function out of seven locations, including the South Block, Sena Bhavan, Varuna Complex near Delhi airport, a building in R K Puram and another in Kailash Colony. Once the planned new headquarters comes up, the Navy intends to vacate its offices out of four of these locations and remain only in South Block, Varuna Complex and at the new headquarters on Rajaji Marg.

 “We will completely vacate the offices from other locations. However, South Block establishments would remain with us,” the officer said.

South Block now houses the offices of the Navy chief, vice chief, deputy chief and several other operationally key positions. The Varuna Complex houses a mess and  the National Maritime Foundation.

 The issue of providing land for the Navy’s headquarters has been moving back and forth between the Defence Ministry and the Urban Development Ministry since the early 1990s, but the effort found traction only in 2010 when A K Antony was Defence Minister and M M Pallam Raju was the Minister of State for Defence. Raju followed up the matter with S Jaipal Reddy, who was then the Urban Development Minister. The matter was again discussed between Antony and Kamal Nath in 2011. In October 2012, the plot behind DRDO Bhavan was allotted for the Navy headquarters.

 If all goes according to plan, the Navy would take about three years to get the government’s sanction for funding the headquarters building and another six years to shift to the new premises. That would be possible only after the plot is vacated by the Army and the commercial establishments removed.

 But ahead of that the Navy is awaiting a VIP to be available on August 20 to do the foundation stone laying for the new Naval Headquarters in the capital.

Rs 400cr is the estimated cost of constructing the new headquarters on the 5.41 acres of land

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The New Indian Express