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IAF tells Bengal to clear airstrips

Calcutta, Nov. 14: Defence authorities today urged the Mamata Banerjee government to remove encroachers from some of the abandoned IAF airstrips across Bengal so they can be developed for use during emergencies.

Some of the strips are in Maoist-infested Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore.

The request was put forward by the Eastern Command comprising the three defence services at a meeting with senior state officials led by home secretary G.D. Gautama this morning. The General Officer Commanding (Bengal area), Major General K.S. Kumbar, hosted the conference at Fort William.

Air force officials explained why it was necessary to remove the squatters, who apparently moved in after the airstrips fell into disuse.

“While modernising some airfields, the IAF is also in the process of assessing how some others could be put to use again. For this, it was necessary to evaluate the land. We have requested the government to ensure that the airfields are freed of encroachment so that we can start working on them,” said a senior IAF officer.

The army officials asked the government to ensure there were no constructions around ammunition depots, including those in north Bengal. Several structures, most of them illegal, have come up near some of the warehouses.

“There is a law that prevents constructions around such facilities,” said a state official.

The state government, on its part, sought the army’s help in setting up camps around the Maidan area during the Ganga Sagar Mela in January.

The defence officials requested the state authorities to build a boundary wall around Purulia’s Sainik School. Such schools are funded and maintained by the defence ministry but the states concerned have to provide some of the infrastructure.

“We have also sought 200 acres in 16 districts of Bengal for setting up NCC offices and training camps,” said an army officer.

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