Land is a precious resource especially in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion and aspiring to be an economic power. Indian Railways and Ministry of Defence (MoD) are the two biggest holders of land in the country.
While railway ministers have often spoken of monetizing surplus land belonging to railways during their budget speeches, the MoD had never toyed with such an idea until now.
However, several times in the past, attempts have been made to change ownership of the defence land, primarily at behest of some people in power. No effort has ever been made to enact a legislation as is being planned now in the form of the Cantonment Bill.
It would be of interest to know that a separate set up under the MoD called the Defence Estates headed by the Director General of Defence Estates (DGDE) manages the defence land.
Isolation of cantonments from the civilian population started in 1765 with the establishment of the first cantonment at Barrackpore because it was considered necessary by the Britishers prior to Independence.