At least 400 illegal business establishments have come up on prohibited, high-security land very close to a major Army ammunition and equipment warehouse near India’s border with Pakistan in Kutch, Gujarat.
<b1>The land on which the shops stand was fraudulently given to people who filed for sarkari relief after faking huge losses in the earthquake that killed over 20,000 in the region in 2001.
At least 30 people including local babus and unscrupulous businessmen have now been booked for the alleged land-grab. In an FIR filed last Wednesday, the Gujarat CID said the land-grabbers connived with officials to submit forged documents to claim land the size of 30 Melbourne Cricket Grounds on the outskirts of Bhuj.
The CID got into the act after a court reacted to a petition by a local activist, and asked for a probe last year. CID DIG Keshav Kumar confirmed: “We will book all officials and others found involved (in the racket).”
The land in question is at the foot of Bhujiya hill on the outskirts of Bhuj. An army depot on the hill stores tanks, guns, mortar and high explosives.
Any civilian activity within 700 m of the mountain is illegal. The army had protested the transfer of the land: on November 27, 2003, the army station headquarters, Bhuj, told the district administration that “a no-objection certificate (for construction) will not be given within 700 m of Bhujiya fort”.
An Army spokesperson in Ahmedabad told Hindustan Times: “The fort is of high strategic value, and the army is very sensitive about its security. It cannot afford any activity around it as it would make its location and layout known.”
SP, Kutch, Harekrishna Patel said: “It is a sensitive issue. As another agency is investigating, I can’t say anything.”