Defence Ministry denotifies civil areas of 10 cantonments

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The Centre issued a gazette notification to denotify civil areas of 10 cantonments in the country. These areas will now be merged with the state municipalities (local bodies) concerned. 

Cantonment Areas and their administration:

  • There are 61 Cantonments in the country which have been notified under the Cantonments Act, 1924 (succeeded by the Cantonments Act, 2006). 
    • In terms of Entry 3 of Union List (Schedule VII) of the Constitution of India, Urban Self Governance of the Cantonments and the Housing Accommodation therein is the subject matter of the Union of India.  
  • The Station Commander of the Cantonment is the ex-officio President of the Board and an officer of the IDES or Defence Estates Organisation is the Chief Executive Officer who is also the Member-Secretary of the Board.
  • The overall municipal administration of the notified Cantonments is the function of the Cantonment Boards which are democratic bodies. 
    • The Board has equal representation of the elected and nominated/ex-officio members to balance the official representation with the democratic composition. 
  • The Cantonment Boards have unique structure because they are and were primarily meant to accommodate the military population and their installations. 
    • Cantonments are different from the Military Stations in that the Military Stations are purely meant for the use and accommodation of the armed forces and these are established under an executive order.
    • The Cantonments are areas which comprise both military and civil population.
  • There are four categories of Cantonments which depend on the size of population residing inside a Cantonment. 
  • Directorate General of Defence estates (DGDE) is an Inter Services Organisation of the Ministry of Defence which directly controls the Cantonment Administration.

About the Cantonments:

Origin and Purpose: 

  • Cantonments in India originated during the British East India Company's rule, particularly after the Battle of Plassey in 1757.
  • Following this victory, the EIC obtained significant territorial rights and established permanent military stations along trade routes, such as the Ganga River. 
  • These cantonments were strategically located away from urban areas to minimize interaction between the military and local populations, aiming to maintain discipline and prevent emotional ties that could undermine British authority.


  • The first three cantonments: - Barrackpore, Danapur, and St Thomas Mount were established before 1800. 
  • Over time, a total of 56 cantonments were established under British rule, strategically positioned to monitor local populations for signs of dissent or rebellion. 
  • After India gained independence, six more cantonments were established, with the last one in Ajmer in 1962. 
  • Presently, there are 62 cantonments, distributed across various military commands.

Layout and Function: 

  • During British rule, the military was granted ownership of lands strictly for barracks construction, with certain lands freely transferable between military officers. 
  • Civilians were employed to provide amenities and services within cantonments, although land ownership rights remained with the military. 
  • Cantonments were initially strictly military areas for the quartering of troops, but civilian populations were also residing within, providing various amenities and services and later the urbanization blurred these distinctions.

Regulatory Framework: 

  • The regulatory framework for cantonments was established through various Acts, such as the Cantonments Act of 1889, the Cantonment Code of 1899, and the Cantonments Act of 1924. 
  • The 1924 Act introduced cantonment boards with civilian representation to manage civic affairs within cantonments. 
  • In 2006, the Cantonments Act replaced the 1924 Act, introducing reforms to ensure greater democratization within cantonment boards, with provisions for elected civilian members and reserved seats for women. 
  • These boards are responsible for providing civic amenities such as health services, water supply, education, and street lighting within cantonments. 
  • Administrative control remains with military authorities, with the station commander serving as the board's ex-officio president.

Cantonment areas which are to be denotified:

  • Dehradun and Clement Town Cantonments in Uttarakhand; 
  • Fatehgarh, Babina, Shahjahanpur and Mathura Cantonments in UP; 
  • Deolali Cantonment in Maharashtra; 
  • Ramgarh Cantonment in Jharkhand; 
  • Ajmer and Nasirabad Cantonments in Rajasthan.

Background of the denotification of Cantonment areas:

  • In April 2023, the Indian government announced its decision to disband the Khas Yol Cantonment Board in Himachal Pradesh, describing cantonments as an archaic colonial practice.
  • This move is part of a plan to dissolve the 62 army cantonments across the country after carving out the military areas and declaring them as military stations under the complete control of the army.
  • Areas severed from the military station will be merged with the neighbouring urban local body (ULB), which will be responsible for their governance and administration.

Status of HImachal Pradesh’s Cantonment areas:

  • Himachal Pradesh had led the way with consent letters (giving consent to start the process of excision of civil areas in cantonments) for all its cantonments.
    • The process to remove its civil areas from the cantonment board is still underway in six of them, with the joint surveys for four out of five cantonments done in the last month under the chairmanship of the respective deputy commissioners.
  • Himachal Pradesh altogether has seven cantonments – Dalhousie, Sabathu, Dagshai, Kasauli, Bakloh, Jutogh, and Khas Yol. Barring Khas Yol, the civil areas of the other cantonments are yet to be denotified.

Significance of the Denotification:

  • The decision to abolish cantonments is in keeping with the needs of the times. 
  • Given the presence of inimical countries around India, the military needs to completely devote itself to the major task of defending the borders and should not be weighed down by functions unrelated to soldiers and war. 
  • Once all 62 cantonments are disbanded, the defence budget can redirect the funds to core military requirements and social infrastructure wherever needed. 


The denotification of civil areas from 10 cantonments marks a significant shift in India's governance structure, aligning with modern needs. This move allows for more efficient use of resources, streamlining military functions, and enabling local bodies to govern these areas more effectively.

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