Old bungalows owned by Defence Ministry commercialised, depriving Cantonment Board of huge amounts in revenue tax. Ever since the SCB launched its special demolition drive against unauthorised constructions and other encroachments last month, it became clear that for years select few persons have been paying pittance as revenue to the authorities while minting money by illegally converting the Old Grant Bungalows (OGBs) into commercial properties like function places, dhabas, workshops, etc

For decades, little was known about the happenings in the verdant Secunderabad Cantonment area. Details of old dilapidated buildings, specially the ownership patterns, were all either shrouded in secrecy or information was withheld with national security as an excuse.

That was till Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) decided to crack down hard on those unduly profiting against properties owned by the Defence Ministry, thereby opening a Pandora’s Box.

Ever since the SCB launched its special demolition drive against unauthorised constructions and other encroachments last month, it became clear that for years select few persons have been paying pittance as revenue to the authorities while minting money by illegally converting the Old Grant Bungalows (OGBs) into commercial properties like function places, dhabas, workshops, etc.

The old grant bungalows in the Secunderbad Cantonment area were constructed during the British era. The British authorities had permitted some people to reside in these bungalows with a rider that the bungalows cannot be sold, divided into sub-plots or used for any commercial activities without the government’s permission. This apart, there was a clause that the government can take over the properties whenever required.

After independence, these became the property of the Union government and for some strange reasons, no one paid much attention to the illegal conversions happening to the OGBs or even the lease of the property changing hands over the years, which was not allowed as per rules.

In fact, Union Minister of State for Roads, Transport and Highways and Malkajgiri MP Sarve Satyanarayana, during a board meeting, recently stated that OGB grantees having land occupancy rights have developed function halls and were conducting four to five functions in a day, earning up to Rs. 1 crore.

Notices issued

The SCB authorities had issued notices in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and every time the notices were served, the bungalow occupants would approach the courts and obtain stay orders. If the arguments were continuing in a few cases, status quo orders were issued in few more. Yet, many bungalow occupants continued to violate rules, explained SCB Chief Executive Officer Sujatha Gupta.

About 22 writ petitions have been filed by the OGB grantees having land occupancy rights seeking stay orders from the court following the recent crackdown and this was in addition to the 55 stay orders already pending in different courts, she said.

Ms. Gupta said SCB authorities had demolished 50 structures, including portions of 10 OGBs following clear-cut instructions issued by the Union Defence Ministry. And the current exercise was not confined to OGBs alone as 40 unauthorised structures were also cleared from B3, B4 defence lands, she said. Despite Mr. Satyanarayana and local MLA P. Shanker Rao urging the board to keep the drive in abeyance and suggesting the option of building regularisation after levying penalties, Ms. Gupta said the drive would be continued until instructions from Defence Ministry.

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