New Delhi, Dec. 2: The Darjeeling land scam rocking the army top brass is beginning to draw in the Bengal government with a senior general saying today the corps headquarters in Sukna gave its assent following the state administrations nod.
The officer, military secretary Lt General Avadhesh Prakash, is among three generals being questioned by a court of inquiry convened by the eastern army commander in Calcutta. The inquiry is headed by Lt General Parnaik, commander of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps. Prakash, Lt General P.K. Rath — who was named deputy chief of army staff (information systems) — and Lt General Ramesh Halgali, Jalandhar Corps commander, have been called as witnesses.
If the inquiry finds evidence that either one or all of them manipulated rules to favour a private party, the army headquarters will take action on the recommendation of the eastern army commander.
The private concern had floated the Geetanjali Educational Trust to build a Rs 300-crore school on a tract adjacent to the headquarters of the 33 Corps in Sukna, Darjeeling. The land doesnt belong to the army but its clearance is required before a property is developed near military stations.
Prakashs lawyer today sent defamation notices to some newspapers and TV channels. He said reports claiming that he had been indicted along with two other generals by the inquiry were false and malicious. Prakash then gave his version of what had happened.
In 2005-2006, four companies took permission of the Bengal government to use 70 acres of rocky land adjacent to the headquarters of the 33 Corps in Sukna for a tourism project
The station commander in Sukna objected and the army took up the issue with the state government
The land was in Chumta Tea Estate and not suitable for tea cultivation. The four companies proposed to build a school on the land and dropped the tourism project
In February this year, the state government called a meeting with the companies, which had a lease on the land, and the 33 Corps. In that meeting, the 33 Corps gave its verbal no objection to the utilisation of the land for the residential school and the state government also agreed
In April, the army changed its decision and decided to cancel the memorandum of understanding and withdraw its No Objection
In October, the eastern army commander, Lt General V.K. Singh, convened a court of inquiry that is yet to finalise its report.
In Parliament today, defence minister A.K. Antony said a probe was on into how the no-objection certificate was granted. …a court of inquiry is in progress to investigate the circumstances under which (the) no-objection certificate was given and a memorandum of understanding signed for the state land, he said in a written reply.