Army gets 5 lakh kanals for fire practice in Ladakh, will wait for a one in Kashmir

SRINAGAR: In a breather that can help army manage its training better, the government has granted it almost half a million kanals in Ladakh, close to Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in Durbuk belt, Jammu newspaper Excelsior reported on Monday. This, however, does not solve its problems in not having a firing range in Kashmir, most of Jammu and another additional one in Ladakh.

(In this file picture Lt Gen Atta Husnain is seen overseeing the de-mining operations in Tosa Maidan after its lease expired and the government decided against extending the lease in 2013)

The newspaper said that army was allotted “4.8 lakh kanals land” for Field Firing Range (FFR) at Mangal Thang (Durbuk). The allotment was made for free for five years and will be extended, the report said.

“Strategically, Mangal Thang has been very significant Field Firing Range for the Army as it was not only located close to the LAC with China but also surrounded by the rugged mountains, which was best suited for the training of Army jawans for raising their skills at par with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China,” sources told the newspaper. It said the location of the range is highly strategic.

“Army has now reiterated its demand for grant of land for three more Field Firing Ranges-one each in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions on priority basis,” the newspaper reported. “Fifty years lease period of 10 firing ranges had ended in November 2014 and since then the Army has been pursuing the case of their extension.”

Army had ten firing ranges in J&K till half a century lease expired.

There were four ranges in Ladakh falling under post-Kargil war constituted 14 corps: Mahe (Nyoma) with an area of 67,953,97 hectares, Khurbarteng (Kargil), Tartar (Leh) having an area of 650 hectares and Kulum (Upshi) in Leh with and area of 24,858.5 hectares.

Under Srinagar 15 corps, there was the Tosa Maidan (Budgam) firing range with an area of 27016 hectares. After the lease expired, it has now been de-mined and converted into a major tourist destination.

Under Nagrota based 16 corps, there were five FFRs: Chorkhud (Poonch) with an area of 10625 hectares, Kalith (Akhnoor) with an area of 15,604 hectares, Rajouri, Jhallas in Poonch (both small arms firing ranges) and Garhi (Nowshera) in Rajouri district.

After the lease expired, army was given land for one firing range at Nowshera (Jammu) in 2016. Of the 66 FFRs across India, army was having the highest number of practice ranges in J&K. However, after the lease expiry, it was facing a problem and would sent soldiers outside the state to Mahajan and Pokhran firing ranges (Rajasthan) and Babina, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) which would add to the costs and troop deployment, the newspaper said.

But the allotment of land for practice fire is not without strings. “Army has been asked to vacate 130 kanals land in Leh, 200 kanals at Kalsar, 1710.77 kanals at Tattoo Ground, 297 kanals at Wuzur and 137 kanals at Jammu Airport,” the newspaper said. “Though there was strong demand from the Army for grant of land in Kashmir region but going by the situation, the Government might not concede request of the Army immediately, sources said.”

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