The Indian Air Force is violating military rules by running a restaurant, a golf course, a pub and a swimming pool on “A-1” category defence land located right next to the high security area of 7 Race Course Road, the Prime Minister’s house. Defence service rules state that A-1 land should be in the active occupation of the military and cannot be used for civilian or recreational purposes. A letter bearing the signature of the Office of Defence Estate, Delhi Circle, Delhi Cantt, clearly states that the land in question belongs to the A1 category and is under the administrative control of the Air Force Station, New Delhi. However, a watering hole by the name of The Fairway Pub, a Chinese restaurant called the Nineteenth Hole, a swimming pool and a golf course are functioning from this land. Air Force officials manage these facilities with money collected from the employees’ welfare fund.
When questioned about this, the public relations officer of the Air Force denied that any private establishment was being run on defence land: “It’s entirely untrue. The pub is not built on defence land.”
These recreational buildings are spread over an area of 36 acres. As per the documents available with this newspaper, this land, under the name of Sports Complex (golf course), was part of the 52 acres purchased by the Ministry of Defence from the Ministry of Urban Development in 1986 for Rs 8 crore.
This correspondent tried to visit Fairway Pub, which is located inside the Race Course Air Force Station, however, the IAF security personnel stationed at the gate said that entry was restricted as it was a defence area. “Unless and until we receive a call from Fairway’s management confirming that you have been invited, we cannot allow you to go inside,” the personnel manning the reception said. According to him, the pub is located less than 700 metres from the gate.
The pub was designed by the Delhi based architecture firm Design Atelier Urbis, two years ago. “The order for constructing the pub came to us through our client Wing Commander Kaustubh Apte,” said an Atelier Urbis official requesting anonymity. Despite several attempts, Apte could not be contacted.
The Defence Estates Officer of the Delhi Circle, Sujata Gupta, when questioned about the restaurant and the pub functioning on A-1 category land, said that she could comment on the matter only after the verification of the land was completed. “Now that we have been made aware of the ownership issue, we will soon start verifying it. The survey of the land in question is not complete and hence it would be difficult to say which part of the area is private land and which comes under defence. It is a huge land and it will take time to verify the ownership,” Gupta said.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in one of its performance audit of defence management, presented in Parliament in March 2011, registered its objection about military officers turning a blind eye to the unauthorised use of defence land. The CAG had said that golf and attendant activities could not be considered as military activities and A-1 land could not be used for building golf courses.