On March 31, the Indian Army put its Military Farm Service out of order after a long run of 132 years.
Around 130 military farms had been in use before the authorities decided to put an end to the service.
At Delhi Cantonment, a formal retreat ceremony was held that formalized the end of the service. The flag for Military Farm Service was lowered with an air of gloom.
Role Of The Military Farms
The first military farm saw the light of the day in 1889 at Allahabad under British rule. Spread across almost the entire country land to provide the needed nutrition via milk to all of the troops deployed in India.
Initially set up in Central, Southern and Western Commands of the Army, the demand for farms gradually increased, and when Northern and Eastern Commands were raised, the farms spread further.
The general supply included milk and butter, occasionally including hay for the Army’s Animal Transport Unit.
Unlimited Potential Of The Farms
With the increase in Military expansion and sources, the farms too saw a subsequent increase. Not only milk production, AI (Artificial Insemination) of cows, and pioneering steps were adopted. And all this just in 1925.
Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) acknowledged that the farms had the largest cattle assemblage in India.
To breed and create the best possible quality of cattle, the Ministry of Agriculture agreed to collaborate with the farms. ‘Project Frieswal’ was the name given to the collaboration that proved to be one of India’s largest cross-breeding programs to date.
Why Shut Down The Farms?
You might be wondering, despite such a flourishing response and overflowing potential, why did the Indian Army decide to shut down the farms?
For this, you first need to know that the farms fall under the Quartermaster General’s branch of the Army Headquarters. June 2013 onwards, the farms had gradually been closing in a phased manner.
Another point to consider is that no dire need existed for the farms to operate since the nation’s food industry is top-notch and no dependency for dairy products on Military Farms continued.
Another crucial lead dates back to July 2014, when the Deputy Director-General Military Farms announced that the authority over the supply and production of dairy products shifted to Army Service Corps (ASC).
And hence, the farms ceased to be under their control. Finally, in 2016 a committee under Lt Gen DB Shekatkar (retired) gave in a report that led to the rearrangement of the Army’s various branches and the recommendation to close the farms originated therein.
Displacement Of Cattle, Staff, And Land
The Chief of Army Staff was ordered to sell all cattle held by the farms to central or state dairy departments or state dairy cooperatives.
The SP was relatively low compared to the CP, but this had to be done to ensure complete transfer of the cattle (25000 approx) from Military Farms to other organizations.
The permanent staff (mostly civilian personnel) got transferred to other departments of the Ministry of Defense while the temporary workers were kept for the farms’ upkeep until they closed down.
The government saved about Rs. 280 crores per year by closing down the farms.
As for the land, 20,000 acres remain in the prized zones for farms. So far, only speculations have been made as to how the land is to be utilized. The most popular being that it will be disposed off for the utilization of the proceeds for capital acquisitions by the three services.
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