The Belgaum Cantonment Board, at the last Board meeting, has passed a Resolution to allow military personnel to enter private bungalows held on ‘Old Grant’ terms as a first step to the ‘Resumption’ of these bungalows. ‘Resumption’ is a measure whereby these civilian residents are evicted from their bungalows within 30 days, without any judicial procedure and without compensation for the land.
Understandably, there has been much anger building up within the association of bungalow owners, who have begun to lobby their elected representatives and others to prevent their eviction from the bungalows which have been occupied from their ancestors’ times, about 100 odd years back.
Their struggle is akin to the struggle of the farmers of Savagaon who are opposing the move of the Indian Army to evict them from the lands that they have always cultivated.
As a first step, 14 bungalows from B.C. 45 to B.C. 75 have been put in for “Resumption”, to provide more accommodation for the officers of the M.L.I.R.C.. However, some bungalows of some rich and powerful residents have been excluded, so that, eventually, the Army officers who live in these bungalows will have rich and powerful civilian neighbours.
“Resumption” rests upon what is called an “Old Grant”.
The “Old Grant” is not a title deed to any of the bungalows. The Army has not been able to support its claim to any of these with a single registered document, where the property is defined by metes and bounds, and acquired or leased, for some consideration.
If the process of ‘Resumption’ gets underway in all 62 Cantonments of the country, as one top Army official said it soon will, then thousands of simple bungalows owners and tenants will be made homeless, while tens of thousands of hectares of land in Cantonment lie vacant . . . yielding only revenue from grass.
Then what is this “Old Grant”?
It is, as various officials of the Defence Ministry and the Army have held, an Order (No. 179) made on the 12th of September 1836 by a paid official of the East India Company, which was an ordinary English Joint-Stock Company.
The East India Company divided India into Presidencies, each with a ‘Governor’ and controlled them from Calcutta (the capital was moved to Delhi only in 1911), by a “Governor General” (a high sounding title for a paid official, who drew a monthly salary from the East India Company).
This gentleman, on 12th September 1836, passed a “General Order” (No. 179) to be promulgated in the different stations of “the Bengal Army”. According to this, all land in all Cantonments in “this Presidency” (i.e., Bengal Presidency), unless proved otherwise, was legally presumed to belong to “the Crown”.
Therefore, the land on which the bungalows stood was presumed to belong to “the Crown”. It could be “resumed” whenever it pleased “the Crown”.
The CEO of the Cantonment says he has nothing to do with the order as the order has come from the Southern Command and he is only executing the order. In the next 15 days these 14 bunglows would be measured and eventually a report would be sent to the Southern command.
Photo courtesy: Santosh