New Delhi: The Indian army has developed a sideline in running golf courses using government land but returning no revenue to the state, the nation’s auditor claims in a damning new report.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that at least 32 square kilometres (12 square miles) of rent-free land had been handed to a privately-run company, Army Zone Golf, which operates 97 luxury golf courses.
The defence ministry is the largest state landowner, holding 80% of the 7,000 square kilometres of government land, much of it now prime real estate, according to the CAG report released Friday.
Golf memberships are being sold to present and past service personnel as well as civilians and foreign nationals, the report said, with revenue credited to a private regimental fund which could not be accessed by the auditors.
Army authorities “earn large amounts of revenue by allowing persons other than service personnel to use these facilities,” the report said.
“Heavy amounts of revenues were being earned without paying any lease rent and allied charges for use of government assets,” it added.
The CAG’s account of the misuse of public land will add to growing worries about the military’s slide into corruption following a string of recent scandals.
In January, the government ordered a 31-storey apartment block in Mumbai to be demolished after it emerged army officers and local politicians had usurped apartments originally meant for war widows.
Army Zone Golf claims to promote the sport in the armed services and runs “some of the most spectacular golf courses of India,” according to its website. No one at the company responded to calls for comment from AFP.
The company’s organising council includes several retired army officers, and was once headed by Joginder Jaswant Singh, former army chief of staff and now the governor of the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The CAG has been instrumental in exposing mismanagement and possible fraud in the sale of telecom licences in 2008 which it said had led to a loss to the state of up to $39 billion.
The telecom minister at the time, A. Raja, has since been arrested and awaits trial.