Pune: The government ordered closure of all the 39 military farms, a British-era legacy being run since 1889, in different parts of the country. There are about 24,000 cattle with an annual production of over 335 lakh kg of milk.
The decision was taken because it was felt the military farms, spread over 20,000 acre of land, to ensure reliable supply of pure dairy produce for soldiers and fodder for their animals, were no longer needed due to the widespread availability of milk and milk products in the civilian market.
These military farms had become a liability for the force since they were occupying huge land that can be used for other purposes. The proposal was pending for the last five years, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has now ordered winding up of all the farms in three months.
In 2012, the Quarter Master General branch of the Army had recommended closure of these farms, which had annual budget of about Rs 380 crore.
The 39 farms are located in Pune, Ahmednagar, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Secunderabad, Mhow, Jhansi, Dimapur, Guwahati, Jorhat, Panagarh, Kolkata, Ambala, Jalandhar, Agra, Pathankot, Allahabad, Lucknow, Meerut, Kanpur, Ranikhet, Jammu, Srinagar, Kargil and Udhampur, among others.
According to Army officials, the land will be in possession of the local military authority and will be utilised for purposes like housing and other establishments for the forces, which may come up in future.
The military farms had a small cadre of 22 officers including civilians and a dozen from the Army from non-combatant roles. The staffs, about 2,000, include majority of civilians. The farms could not be shut earlier as staffs and officers did not want to be relocated.
The cattle are expected to be transferred to other departments like the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.
Of late, there had been corruption cases at the farms and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing two such cases.