Revisiting Cantonments

Living in Secunderabad area, I enjoyed driving through the cantonment thanks to its greenery and fresh air. Over the last decade, the explosion of traffic in the twin cities during rush hour has not left any major section void.

In between late 2013 and early 2014, the effects of increased traffic came onto to be felt especially in certain parts of Secunderabad cantonment as the stationed defence authorities imposed curbs on public passing through their zone.

Unable to access one of these roads, I got to thinking about the system of cantonment and what we can do to ease out of this situation. The concept of cantonment in India dates back to the British era which we still retain and operate out of. However, the cantonment in various Indian cities, especially in tier-I are no longer in the boondocks but instead part of the city itself.

Ten or fifteen decades ago cantonments were set up in the outskirts of cities, but with urbanization the cantonments are bang in the middle of the city, compromising on valuable real estate and causing traffic hindrances. The Secunderabad Cantonment, the largest serving cantonment in geographical area across the whole country today, is no exception to this.

Cantonment Lands

SC Map
So what is the solution?

A quick back of the napkin calculation indicates that we have an area of roughly 48 million square yards under Secunderabad cantonment, which ranges from 3km to may be up to 15km from the central Secunderabad railway station. Owing to its proximity to the central railway station, most of the area falls under the desired area for commercial operations from where a lot of business revenue can be generated.

If we do use this identified land mass for commercial purpose, then we expect a huge windfall for the Department of Defence, state and local municipal authorities and various other business stakeholders. They can turn this land mass into a huge revenue and employment generating machine.

In fact, we also see the benefit of Indian Defence becoming a trailblazer for investments in adjoining states like Andhra Pradesh even as they further their presence and influence. Looking at an average land size per transaction to be 600 sq. yards, we are talking about 80,000 units to be transacted effectively with a potential revenue/windfall of about Rs. 1.5 lakh crores just to own the land for starters and then of course the huge opportunity to generate revenue on top of it.

Of course for this idea to see daylight, the government should offer alternative area for establishing new cantonment and transition out in a planned manner.

If this exercise can lead to introspection on various other cantonment areas like in Bengaluru, Chennai, etc. with similar potential benefits for all stakeholders then we can look at a large scale movement towards newer, well planned and modern cantonments.

  • 2 Jun, 2015
  • Venu Madhav

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