The tussle between the Himachal Pradesh government and the Indian armys tussle over historic Annandale ground seems to have not yet been resolved despite the fact that Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had reversed the earlier governments order to get the historic ground vacated of army.
On Tuesday,when top army officials reach Shimla for annual civil-military liaison conference,which the Chief minister will inaugurate,one of the crucial issues on the table will be Annandale ground.
The lease allowing the army to use the ground for its operations in the national interest expired in 1982. The army is insistent on retaining the ground for countrys strategic needs and because it is critical for defence requirements. However,the state government is in no mood to sign a fresh lease. Yet,through an understanding reached at between the Chief Minister and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra,General Officer Commanding-in-Chief,Western Command,in January,the army will continue to maintain the ground and use it for emergency mock drills or other operations.
The Virbhdra government has already withdrawn the arbitration proceedings started during the BJP regime to take over the ground. The BJP government wanted to take possession of the ground and develop an international level cricket stadium there.
Now,the state government has put forward a proposal asking the army not to create hindrances and let it park its 26-seater Hans Jawan helicopter on one corner of the ground. The army had long been objecting to the use of the ground by the civil administration or by the tourism department.
The government helicopter,used for VVIP flights and emergencies,has no permanent hangar.
The helicopter on wet-lease with the government has no shelter. There are issues of its security as it remains parked in the open within an earmarked space. This is one of the important issues,which the government will like to be resolved at the conference, said Bharat Khera,secretary,General Administration Department (GAD).
Insiders say the army was not permitting construction of any structure at the ground. But the government,too,has decided to stick to its guns.
The tussle over Annandale ground – a sprawling green patch in the middle of the town – had reached a flash point after Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association president Anurag Thakur led a signature campaign seeking transfer of the ground. His organisation collected 1.08 lakh signatures. The HPCA had offered to invest Rs 100 crore to build a multi-purpose sports stadium at the site.
The Annandale ground was taken over by the Army during World War-II to be used as a training camp. Since then it is used for operational and logistic activities.
Other issues listed for the conference include armys objections to upcoming 450 MW Shongton Karcham hydel project in Kinnaur district. The army had filed a petition in the High court asking for scrapping of the project citing threat to an ammunition depot. The work at the project has been stopped.
At least the work on the hydel project should not be stopped as the depot can be relocated to an appropriate site, feels Khera.