Cantonments were established in various parts of India by East India Company after the battle of Plassey in 1757 against Nawab Siraj ul-Daula. The first Cantonment was established in 1765 at Barrackpore, near Calcutta. The Cantonments Act was promulgated in 1924. The Military Lands and Cantonments Service as a Central Service was created in 1940's. In 1985 the name of service was changed from Defence Lands and Cantoments Service to Indian Defence Estates Service. At present IDES cadre has 189 Officers. There are 62 Cantonments and 37 Defence Estates Office Circles. Out of 62 Cantonments, six were created after Independence. The department looks after the civic functions in the Cantoments through Cantonment Boards and each Cantonment has a Chief Executive Officer from Indian Defence Estates Service.
Defence Estates Officers look after the requirements of the local military authorities for land and buildings as well as manage defence lands. All land acquisitions for all the services under Ministry of Defence are carried out through Defence Estates Department. All defence land records are maintained by the Defence Estates Department.