PUNE, which was the largest military camp for the British force during its regime, assumed further importance after the country gained Independence. Several defence establishments were set up in Pune while the existing ones were expanded.
Among the key ones that came up post-Independence include the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the College of Engineering, Dapodi (CME). “While the capacity of the Lohegaon air base was expanded with modern fighter aircraft being roped in, Pune was picked for setting up of other vital defence establishments like NDA and CME, among others. Thus, Pune became the centre for all peacetime training establishments,” recalls Maj Gen (retd) S C N Jatar (84) who had started his career in 1954 as a second lieutenant.
What went in favour of Pune, says Jatar, was the availability of open spaces, hilly terrain and proximity to the Arabian sea. “Significantly, Pune was away from the border area. Instead of establishing units in Rajasthan and Punjab which were close to the border and thereby easy target for the enemy, Pune was thought to be the safer option.”
The foundation stone for the NDA was laid by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on October 6, 1949. The NDA was formally commissioned on December 7, 1954. “It is the first tri-service academy in the worldand Pune got the honours for it,” said a retired Army officer. After Independence, the School of Military Engineering, a dedicated school to impart combat engineering training to officers was set up in 1943 in Roorkee. It was moved to Dapodi in 1948 and upgraded to the status of a college in 1951. It then began to provide degree engineering courses recognised by the Institution of Engineers.
CME trains personnel, both Officers and Personnel Below Officers Rank (PBOR) of the Corps of Engineers, other arms and services, Navy, Air Force, Para-Military forces, police and also civilians.
India’s top defence medical college — the Armed Forces Medical College — also came up in Pune.