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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jawans sans home and hearth

NEW DELHI: Leave alone supersonic fighter jets or complex ballistic missile defence systems, the defence establishment seems incapable of even providing something as basic as decent family accommodation to its armed forces.

Even as the defence ministry flounders, deadline after deadline of the much-touted Married Accommodation Project (MAP), touted as a major welfare measure for soldiers, airmen and sailors, is being missed with huge cost escalation.

Consequently, while officers have it relatively easy, a majority of jawans are forced to stay away from their families for prolonged periods, which is one of the factors cited for the high levels of stress prevalent in the forces. Incidentally, the 13 lakh-strong armed forces record over 120 suicide and 'fragging' cases every year.

MAP was conceived a decade ago to ameliorate some of the hardship faced by jawans since there was limited housing available for married personnel. Though the aim was to construct just 1,98,881 new dwelling units, in four phases at an estimated cost of Rs 17,357 crore, it was considered a good beginning.

But it has flattered to deceive. In May 2002, the Cabinet Committee on Security approved construction of 61,658 dwelling units under phase-I, which were to be ready by 2005-2006.

Eight years later, even after the number of units to be constructed was reduced to 58,391 in 86 military stations at a cost of Rs 5,329 crore, phase-I is yet to be completed. "Only about 42,000 units are ready till now," said an official.

"The less said about phase-II the better. Under it, 66,727 units have to be constructed in a compressed timeframe by March 2012. It will simply not be possible," he said.

MoD, on its part, says phase-II will not be branched off to PSUs, like it was in phase-I. Defence minister A K Antony has 'directed' senior officials to ensure 'strict adherence' to the March 2012 deadline.

While 75% of the work in phase-II will be executed directly by the directorate general of MAP, the other 25% will be handled by MES (military engineering service), to avoid slippages and cost escalation.

But given the track record of both MAP and MES till now, the timely execution of phase-II, at a cost of Rs 9,938 crore, is likely to remain a pipedream.

Moreover, no definite timeframes for phase-III and IV, under which over 70,000 units are to be constructed, have been chalked out in detail. MoD officials, however, said the government had 'agreed in principle' to combine the last two phases to complete the entire MAP 'at the earliest'.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Jawans-sans-home-and-hearth/articleshow/5736893.cms

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