New Delhi: It's well know that the Indian Army is short of officers, but not so well known is that it doesn't have a permanent headquarters. Practically, everywhere the Army and the Navy sit in Delhi is a temporary accommodation and the situation seems unlikely to improve.
Sixty-five years after Independence, neither service has a permanent headquarters. The Army is short of 5 lakh square feet of space, forcing it to function from seven different locations ranging from Lutyens' Delhi to Timarpur. The Navy does a little better but only because it's smaller.
Everywhere the Army and Navy sit is temporary accommodation dating back to World War II, except Delhi Cantonment. At Sena Bhavan, the Public Works Department is the landlord, in South Block, it's the Urban Development Ministry.
At South Block, the Army and Navy share space with civilian employees of the Defence Ministry. Key departments like intelligence and operations function in a less than secure environment. Office space is squeezed, working conditions are poor.
"The worse thing is efficiency does suffer because we have some parts of one branch in South Block while the other part is in Sena Bhavan, some are in M Block, some in cantonment. So I think something must be done," says Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, ex-AG's branch.
Ideally, the Army would like a headquarters close to the Sena Bhavan, a possible location is across the road where the Canteen services department is located. Army plans envisage a subway linking Sena Bhavan with the new headquarters, but the urban development ministry has offered that site to the Navy presently housed at the INS India barracks and said the army should move to Sena Bhavan after the Navy moves out.
The Army says one headquarter would enable it to consolidate its other offices, besides the Sena Bhavan was built to house the Defence Ministry. As the tug of war goes on, the Air Force now wants to move its chief into South Block, into the offices being vacated by the External Affairs Ministry. The logic is that South Block has prestige even if the accommodation is not your own.