Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh gave away Raksha Mantri Awards for Excellence 2021 on the occasion of 96th Raising Day of Directorate General Defence Estates in New Delhi on December 16, 2021. The recipients were awarded for innovation and digital achievements in the fields of health, education and sanitation along with public service and land management. Since classes were being run online due to COVID-19 pandemic, the awards in the field of education were not considered. This year, a new award has been instituted by the Raksha Mantri for achievement in implementation of ‘e-Chhawani’ project. These categories are:
1) Swachh Chhawani Swasth Chhawani
2) Digital Accomplishments
3) Innovation in Public Services
4) Land and Record management
5) Improvement in Cantonment General Hospital
6) Implementation of ‘e-Chhawani’ Project
Congratulating the award winners, Shri Rajnath Singh exuded confidence that the awards will encourage all the winning organisations to work for the betterment of Cantonment Boards. He hoped that other officers and employees will also be inspired to receive these awards in future through this noble deed of public service. These awards are the testimony to the perseverance and commitment of DGDE towards nation building.
Remembering late General Bipin Rawat, who passed away in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu recently, the Raksha Mantri stated that the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) had attended the inauguration ceremony of the e-Chhawani portal earlier this year and strived to make DGDE more active and empowered. He exhorted DGDE and other departments of MoD to make more efforts and achieve the goal of continuous strengthening of Armed Forces, for which the Government has created the post of CDS and set up Department of Military Affairs.
Shri Rajnath Singh lauded the efforts of the DGDE towards management of 17.98 lakh acres of land and the civil administration of 62 cantonments across the country. He appreciated the fact that the DGDE is constantly striving to provide modern facilities to Cantonment areas and meet the growing aspirations of the military officers, soldiers, their families as well as the civilian population of more than 20 lakh people.
Echoing the Government’s resolve of welfare of Cantonment Boards, the Raksha Mantri said, the e-Chhawani portal was launched to ensure ease of living to the residents. He said, the integrated platform provides easy and contactless access to all municipal services such as payment of taxes, renewal of business license, new water and sewerage connections, various types of certificates and grievance redressal. He described it as a shining example of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ and ‘Digital India’ envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Government is working on resolving various problems faced by the residents of Cantonment areas in mutation/transfer of their properties, re-construction of buildings and renewal of lease etc.,” he added.
Shri Rajnath Singh commended the Cantonment Boards for providing public services, comprehensive medical care and tele-medicine facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the second wave. “The Cantonment hospitals have upgraded their infrastructure on a war footing and are now ready to face any challenge,” he added.
The Raksha Mantri lauded Cantonment Boards for the initiative to renovate 75 water bodies across the country as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ commemorating 75 years of Independence. At present, most of the Centrally-sponsored schemes have been implemented in the cantonment areas, so that the benefits of the schemes reach these residents as well.
Shri Rajnath Singh appreciated the steps taken by the DGDE towards management of defence land across the country. These include issuance of Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to protect defence land from encroachment on the basis of real time updation of land records and threat metrics and approval to erect boundary pillars to protect the vacant defence lands.
On the occasion, the Raksha Mantri also inaugurated Centre of Excellence in the field of survey technology for capacity building, set up by National Institute of Defence Estates Management (NIDEM), the apex Central Training Institute to provide professional training to the officers and employees of the Defence Estates department. The Centre will focus on new techniques of survey i.e., Drone Surveying and Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) technologies. These techniques will ensure accurate survey of defence land, through which land security can be made more effective by making the process of removal of encroachments a reality. This will be available not only to the officers of DGDE but to all Government departments involved in land management and surveying. Shri Rajnath Singh lauded DGDE for setting up the Centre of Excellence, saying that the department has achieved self-reliance by developing internal expertise through training of officers and staff rather than relying solely on external experts.
Shri Rajnath Singh also launched Geographic Information System (GIS)-based automated water supply pipeline system under e-Chhawani. The GIS-based information technology will completely eliminate the need of manual intervention for sanctioning water connection. This application for reducing the duration to provide water connection has been developed by Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG-N), a state agency of Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat. This technology has not been adopted till now by any civic body in the country. The Raksha Mantri said, the GIS-based water supply network will ensure optimum utilisation of water and its equal distribution to the residents. It is a big step towards realising the concept of ‘Jal Hi Jeevan Hai’.
The Raksha Mantri suggested MoD as well as DGDE to consider renaming of roads & buildings in Cantonment areas after the brave soldiers and the stalwarts who played a central role in building a modern India. He, however, maintained that the suggestion is not motivated by any narrow mentality, stressing that the British officers or soldiers who did a commendable job for the betterment of the people must be respectfully recognised and introduced to the future generations.
While appreciating the work done by DGDE, Shri Rajnath Singh urged the department to strive even more to improve the quality of urban facilities being provided to the Armed Forces personnel and other residents of Cantonment Boards. He emphasised on increased coordination between DGDE and the Armed Forces and urged DGDE to work whole-heartedly to protect the defence land and develop systems for optimum utilisation by all stakeholders. He exhorted them to move towards timely resolution of the problems faced by the residents of Cantonment areas. The Raksha Mantri called upon the DGDE personnel to not only cater to the security needs of the Armed Forces, but also keep in mind the legitimate interests of civilians residing in Cantonment areas. He also hoped that the department will adapt to the fast-evolving digital age and use IT tools not only to serve the citizens but also to provide updated information to the Ministry and the Armed Forces.
Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Financial Advisor (Defence Services) Shri Sanjiv Mittal, DGDE Shri Ajay Kumar Sharma and other senior civil & military officials of MoD were present on the occasion.