Short No Firing Ranges In J&K, Troops Sent To Train Outside

6 May 2015
The Tribune
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Jammu: The Army has run out of field firing ranges in Jammu and Kashmir as a re-notification of 10 field firing ranges is pending with the state government. The government has also asked the Army to vacate from 15 places. As a result, the Army, in a bid to keep its troops battle ready, has been sending them to field firing ranges in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. 'Putting additional, but avoidable burden on the Defence budget, the Army since January this year is sending troops with cannons, weapons and ammunition to the firing ranges in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,' said a top Army source. 'While the re-notification of 10 field firing ranges in the Northern Command is pending with the state government, there are 15 other cases where the state government has asked us to vacate land,' he added. The field firing ranges were Mahe near Nyoma in Leh with an area of 67,953.97 hectares, Khurbathang in Kargil, Tartar in Leh with 650 hectares, Kulum at Upshi in Leh with 24,858.5 hectares, Tosa Maidan in Budgam with 27,016 hectares, Chorkhud in Poonch with 10,625 hectares, Kalith in Akhnoor with 15,604 hectares, Rajouri, Jhallas in Poonch and Garhi in Nowshera. Rajouri and Jhallas were small-arms firing ranges while Garhi was meant for infantry weapon fire. The remaining 10 ranges were meant for artillery and other high trajectory weapon fire. The 50-year-lease period of firing ranges to the Army had ended in November last year. 'Firing ranges are an extremely critical element in guarding sensitive borders of J&K and Kharbuthang was the most important range in the 14 Corps zone (Ladakh). Its notification lapsed on November 18, 2013. The state government has linked it's re-notification for five years with handing over of the Lower Kharbuthang plateau, called the Kharo field firing range,' said the source. The lapsing of lease of the firing ranges has resulted in lack of firing practice to units, which now are moving all the way to the Mahajan and Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan and the Bobina ranges in Madhya Pradesh for perfecting artillery fire, tank fire and other high-calibre weapons, he added. 'It has resulted in preventable movement of troops, weapons, related equipment and avoidable burden on the Defence budget,' he said. 'In lieu of the Tosa Maidan firing ranges, land at Bajpathri has been identified, but not yet notified to us. In Ladakh, the government asked us to vacate 106.12 hectares at the Khurbathang lower plateau for expansion of Kargil city. An alternate land has been offered and the matter is under discussion,' he added. In case of the Kalith ranges, the re-notification was pending since August 14 last year. 'Certainly, there is a problem in acquiring lands in case of firing ranges,' he said. The Army has been asked to vacate 15 places in the state which are Leh, Hanuthang Biamah, Dah Biahmah, Nimu and Kaksar (in Ladakh), Tattoo Ground, Wuzur, Haft Chinar, Gund and Sonamarg (in Kashmir) and Nagrota, Poonch, Sunderbani, Jammu Airport and Jammu Transit Camp (in Jammu). Some of the places Army told to vacate Locations Land with Army Purpose Land offered-Not offered Leh 130 kanals Construction of stadium Offered Kaksar 200 kanals Agriculture Not offered Tattoo Ground 1710.77 kanals Expansion of civic amenities. To provide 212 kanals at Sharifabad Wuzur 297 kanals Re-alignment of NH 44 Land de-hiring under process. Jammu Airport 136 Kanals Expansion of airport Offered. To be completed in phases