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Raza Hamid asked: What is the difference between a military station and a cantonment?

Rumel Dahiya replies: Both the cantonments and the military stations are primarily meant for exclusive use of the military personnel in performance of their bona fide duties. The land and facilities built on the land belongs to the government, either because the land was purchased by the government at some point of time or taken on perpetual lease. The cantonments are governed by the Cantonment Act as amended from time to time.

Cantonments are notified places governed by an Act of Parliament; the Cantonment Act, 2006 being the latest. Military stations on the other hand are created by an executive order by the government and have no statutory backing. These are governed under Defence Services Regulations and not as per the Act of Parliament. The cantonments have its land categorised depending upon their usage as A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4 and C categories; A1 being for exclusive use of troops. In military stations, the land is analogous to A1; exclusively for military purposes with no other function envisaged.

The cantonments have a mixed civilian and military population. As laid down in Schedule VII, entry 3, of the Constitution of India, the cantonments have a municipal body for local administration. Besides having the barracks, offices, garages and training areas, etc., which are used only by the troops, the cantonments also have other facilities like schools, hospitals and markets for the troops and their families as also the civil population living within the area. The land is managed by Defence Estates Department of the Government of India. The cantonments, numbering a little over 60, are old establishments. The last of the cantonments was established in 1962.

The civic functions of the cantonments are looked after by Cantonment Boards, with a defence services officer as the President of the Cantonment Board (normally also designated as Station Commander) and an officer from Defence Estates Department as the Chief Executive Officer. The Board has other elected and appointed members as well. The members are elected by the voters who have been living within the cantonment and are registered voters thereof. The Cantonment Board provides services like schools, hospitals, roads, sanitation, arboriculture and permission for renovation of the buildings. In short, it functions as a municipality.

The military stations are also built on the land acquired or leased by the government, but for the sole purpose of use by the military. The Cantonment Act does not apply on military stations and there are no civilian inhabitations therein though some civilian employees may be working there. The military stations came up in more recent times with the expansion of forces, i.e., when new units had to be raised. The administration of a military station is looked after by the military authorities themselves.

Posted on July 08, 2015