At a time when the Dragon has been breathing down India’s neck, chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday gave a nod to the creation of a composite aviation base under the Army Aviation Corps to be built in Jalapiguri.
The proposed base will be the largest in the country and would emerge as a major muscle power for the new Strike Corps being raised to counter the Chinese might in the Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh frontiers.
A high- level meeting took place in Kalimpong between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Lt. Gen KJ Singh, GOC of the 33 Corps Sukna on Tuesday.
Singh had in the past met North Bengal development minister Goutam Deb over the issue of land required for the base.
According to sources, Mamata had even asked the North Bengal Development Minister and the district administration to facilitate land acquisition required for the creation of the base, which is slated to provide employment opportunities for around 10,000 people.
The base requires 759.73 acres of land in the Sarugaon and Damdim areas of the Jalpaiguri district. The land on which the base is to come up on is mainly wasteland and unused plantation land of closed tea gardens.
The cost of the project is pegged at Rs. 572 crores and Rs. 750 crores for Saugaon and Damdim respectively.
The base will be home to fixed winged aircrafts, helicopters and even drones. “Today’s meeting was very fruitful,” said Deb.
Deb had earlier said the state government would help the army as land can always be acquired for national interest.
The minister added that the army has also sought help in constructing an alternative road connecting Sikkim with the rest of the country via Gorubathan, Lava, Algara and Pedong.
The proposed base comes at a time when China has improved rail and road links to Nathula border.
The new road and the base would help Indian army to increase mobility in a region bordering China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
The army is also likely to set up a modern armoury near its proposed air base.
North Bengal has three air force bases at Hashimara, Binnaguri and Bagdogra.
Unlike the Chinese move to expand railway connectivity up to Sino-India border near Nathula, the proposed Rs. 1339.46 crore Sevoke-Rangpo railway, the foundation for which was laid on October 30 2009, is gathering dust.
Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari laid the foundation stone in presence of Mamata Banerjee the then railway minister and chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling.
The 52.70 km long rail connectivity from Sevoke near Siliguri, to Rangpo in Sikkim is yet to get clearance from the union ministry of environment and forest.
The state government has been accusing the Centre of delaying the project.
The railway survey up to Nathula has been completed.