Shimla: Tussle for control of Annadale Ground currently in possession with the armed forces is to be settled with the Himachal government withdrawing ongoing arbitration proceedings as chief minister Virbhadra Singh assured Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, top commander of western command, that ‘status quo would be maintained’, a spokesman for Western Command stated.
The General Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Command Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra called upon the chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Governor Urmila Singh here today.
While the state government termed them as a courtesy calls, a spokesman for the army commander said the besides exchange of pleasantries, a number of issues including the criticality of Annadale Ground for operations of Army was discussed.
“The western army commander stressed upon the criticality of Annadale Ground for operations of army along the northern borders as also for any unforeseen disaster relief contingency operations.
The chief minister was in agreement and said that necessary directions would be given to withdraw the ongoing Arbitration proceedings.
He assured the army commander that status quo would be maintained in respect of Annadale Ground,” stated the army spokesman.
However in a late clarification, the chief minister office stated that the government assured the army commander that status quo would be maintained with respect to Annadale ground.
“The government would consider withdrawing the ongoing arbitration proceedings, keeping in view the importance of Annadale ground,” said Virbhadra Singh.
The army and the state government have been at loggerheads over possession of the ground, a place where during the British Raj days horse racing and summer picnics were held.
The ground which is the biggest ground in the city is also the place from where Durrand Cup, the premier football championship, was started in the country.
The government under Prem Kumar Dhumal had made a bid to get back the ground by initiating arbitration proceeding to reclaim the government property, for which the lease deed was said to have expired in the 1990’s.
The army, which also uses the ground for an exclusive golf course, has maintained that the ground is vital for conducting disaster rescues operations and other drills at the hill station, cannot vacate the ground.
The matter is being agitated before the divisional commissioners revenue court, where the district administration has moved for arbitration proceedings to get the ground vacated from the army’s possession.
Before western command headquarters moved to Chandi Mandir they were stationed in Shimla.
The large complex vacated by the western command in the heart of the city today is being used to house the Army Traning Command, a logistic command of the army.
Other issues discussed at the meeting between the army commander and the chief minister today included jobs for ex-servicemen.
The army commander brought out that a large number of qualified and skilled ex-servicemen were available in the state who could make a worthwhile contribution.
Lt Gen Chachra also raised the issue of establishing a military station at Una for which land acquisition proceedings needed to be speeded up for early development of the base.