Acting on a long pending proposal, the Defence Ministry has directed that the 39 military farms across the country be shut down within three months. This will bring to an end a long practice running since the end of 19th century.
“The order was issued by the Defence Ministry a week ago, and all 39 farms have to be shut within three months,” a defence source said on Monday.
This move is expected to save the Ministry several hundreds of crores. In the revised estimates of 2016-17 there was an expense of ₹305 crore and in the budget estimates for 2017-18 there was an allocation of ₹334 crore.
The military farms were raised by the British in 1889 to provide milk to military personnel across the country. In the past, these were a necessity as cantonments were located far away from urban areas.
Become a liability
However, with urban expansion, cantonments have come well within towns and cities and milk procurement is being increasingly done from the open market. The farms have become a liability for the Army and have seen several charges of corruption. For instance, the annual demand for milk from military personnel is about 21,00,00,000 litres of which only 14% is being met through the military farms.
The farms spread over 20,000 acres of land have about 25,256 cattle and employ 14 combatants and 2,000 defence civilians.
All the farms are on defence land and these will be used for other defence purposes, the source added.