Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir government Monday constituted a high-level panel headed by Chief Secretary of the state to suggest viable option including “short-term lease” besides the relocation of the Tosmaidan Field Firing Range.
The committee, comprising eight members besides the chairman, has been also tasked to workout modalities for transfer of 176 acres of land which is “under the unauthorized occupation of Army at Gulmarg, in lieu of the land to be exchanged for Tattoo Ground, Batamaloo (here).”
The decision to constitute the panel was actually taken at the Civil-Military Liaison Conference (CMLC) chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in November last year.
The members of the committee include Administrative Secretary Home Department, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir (Member Secretary), Principal Chief Conservator Forest (J&K), Administrative Secretary Forest Department, Administrative Secretary Tourism Department, Representative of Northern Command (not below the rank of Major General to be nominated by the Army Commander and Principal Director, Defence Estate Northern Command.
“The Committee shall submit its report within three months and shall be serviced by the Home Department,” M A Bukhari, Secretary to the Government, General Administration Department, said.
Tosmaidan is a vast beautiful pasture located under the foothills of Pir Panjal mountain range in Khag-Khansahib area of Budgam in central Kashmir.
It is said to have been notified as firing range in 1964 for four decades and re-notified by the then People’ Democratic Party-Congress government in 2004 for use of Army manoeuvres.
As the notification expires on April 18, 2014, the Army last year asked the J&K government to re-notify the picturesque land, about 11,200 hectares, as a firing range till 2034.
However, the demand drew severe criticism from cross-section of the society besides the locals, who have been badly affected by the military exercises for more than half a century.
In ecologically fragile environs of Gulmarg, the Army occupies 305 acres, 5 kanals and 13 marlas of land in against the “allotted” 130 acres.
The information was actually divulged by the Divisional Commissioner before the High Court in compliance to its orders on a Public Interest Litigation seeking to safeguard the famous tourist resort.
It may be recalled that in 2009, the Indian Army had agreed to vacate 139 acres of land at Tattoo ground—a prime piece of land in Srinagar that it has occupied for decades.
However, there were no headways after Army declined to be relocated to Sharifabad where its counterinsurgency division Kilo Force headquarters is located.