A portion of the fighter jet at Dipesh’s godown in Jaigaon. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Alipurduar, May 6: Jaigaon has no airport, but it did see a plane land, though briefly.
The man responsible for bringing the plane to this hamlet, which is over 140km from Siliguri and near Bhutan’s border with India, is scrap trader Dipesh Mallick.
Dipesh, 28, generally bought odds and ends at scrap auctions. Until he bid and won the metal body of a MIG 27 at an auction of the Hashimara air force station.
After he brought the plane to a godown near his home on April 26, his acquisition became a must-see for residents of Jaigaon, which is 48km from Alipurduar, the nearest town.
Initially, the bizarre purchase thrilled him. But as small crowds gathered outside his godown every day to get a peek of the plane, Dipesh ran out of patience.
“I bought it as scrap. I never imagined that a scrap deal would make me famous. People gathered here to see the aircraft. The other day, I got exhausted trying to control the crowd. I have been in the business (of buying and selling scrap metal) for more than 10 years,” said the trader, who stays at Vivekananda Pally in Jaigaon.
Sunit Agarwal, a schoolboy who was in the crowd that thronged Dipesh’s godown to stare at the plane, said: “Since yesterday (April 26), a lot of people have been flocking here. I also came with my friends. I touched the plane and it felt great. Otherwise, it’s not easy to touch a plane.”
The Russian jet has none of its inner parts. Dipesh got the metal body for Rs 2.54 lakh. He brought the metal shell home in his own six-wheel truck and he had to spend another Rs 5,000 on transportation.
Group Captain Tarun Singha, the chief public relations officer of the Eastern Air Command in Calcutta, said over phone that the aircraft Dipesh had purchased was over 10 years old.
“It is a Russia-made fighter jet. For the last five years, the aircraft was at the Hashimara air force station after decommissioning. This trader bought only the outer frame. The inner parts were removed. Those could be used for another aircraft if they are okay,” Singha said.
Curious neighbours were not Dipesh’s only worry, though.
Police and Sashastra Seema Bal officers had come calling and asked from where he had got the plane.
“I showed the officers documents of the online auction. They went away after that,” Dipesh said.
On May 4, perhaps a little fed up, Dipesh sold his unusual heap of scrap to Md. Ikram, another scrap trader in Gayerkata in Jalpaiguri’s Dhupgiri block for Rs 2.73 lakh.
Dipesh had got many phone calls from other traders who wanted to buy the broken-up jet.
“The plane weighs almost 2.5 tonnes and is 65ft long. The body is made of aluminium, copper and iron. Still, I could not understand why people were so excited about the scrap.”
If Jaigaon residents are missing the jet, more excitement may be in store for them.
“Again four or five MiG 27 planes will go under the hammer,” Dipesh said. “I will submit tenders for them.”