Sukhna: Corruption in 'high' places

While the Court of Inquiry of the Army which had already told the government that the land belonging to the Army could not be handed over to any commercial developer for security reasons, the revelation that the claim of establishing an affiliate of the well-known Ajmer-based Mayo College was entirely false, has rattled the defence higher-ups.

In order to gauge the depth of the scam, one needs to know Sukhna’s geographical importance. First, Siliguri, the burgeoning town in North Bengal, has fast been gaining strategic importance on various counts. Besides being the gateway to the all the Northeastern states and neighbouring Bhutan, its proximity to international border with Bangladesh, Nepal and China has catapulted the town into one of the sensitive zones in the country’s defence department.

If Nepal and Bangladesh are just a “stone’s throw”  from Siliguri, one can have a clear and distinct view of Chinese territory from the higher reaches of Kalimpong, barely 70 km away. The famed Nathu La Pass through which the border trade between India and China has been resumed a couple of years back, is around 180 km far though.

With a large number of tea gardens closing down over the years due to “sickness”, realtors have stepped in and turned couple of them into townships, thanks to discreet backing of the ruling state government.

With borders just close by, smuggling has been the name of the game for decades and Siliguri has been going up the chart of realtors for all the wrong reasons. With a state government that is bent on ridding the town of its backward tag at “all costs”, property prices have been zooming up faster than some areas in Kolkata.

And the inevitable was bound to happen: Sukhna, barely a couple of km away from Siliguri, still has a pristine nature though a deforestation drive has illegally been on. Getting a land next to the army headquarters at a throwaway price and prospects of a high return on that investment are an allurement difficult to resist, kickbacks taken into account. The businessman-turned-realtor purportedly close to Lt Gen Prakash, was no fool and he made the best use of his connections.

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