KOLKATA: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been trying to purchase about 9.2 acres of Khas (vested) land from the West Bengal government at Frasergunj for nearly Rs 8.7 crore but there has not been any response over the last two years.
This land is crucial to set up a forward operating base and rescue centre for the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). There are about 2,500 registered fishing boats from South 24-Parganas and Frasergunj is nearest to their area of operations.
That is the reason why the ICG started operating from Frasergunj since 2014 without any infrastructural support.
"Every year trawlers sink during the monsoon and fishermen die. We have four hovercraft at Haldia but they aren't able to reach on time due to the distance, weather and other constraints. We have now got land for a hovercraft landing and radar station at Frasergunj but that doesn't suffice. We still have to operate a hovercraft from Haldia (that is 1.5 hours sailing time away) on a rotational basis. We don't have accommodation for officers or crew at Frasergunj. The ICG operates from a rented accommodation there and pays nearly Rs 1 lakh annually," a ICG source said.
West Bengal home secretary H K Dwivedi didn't respond to our queries on this subject.
An ICG official conceded that Haldia is too far inland to handle any emergency at sea. Frasergunj is the only option. It is barely 100 km from the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans continues to pose a security threat for the country due to its several inaccessible creeks. The official claimed that the Sundarbans area will turn out to be a major threat for the country in the next few years unless steps are taken now.
"The land acquired for the hoverport is within the Coastal Regulatory Zone and not much activity is possible there. The 9.2 acres that has been identified is unchallenged. We could have an office block, accomodation for officers and staff as well as a helipad there. We expect to receive the Dhruv Mark-III helicopters in the east by March this year. This will be under the Northeast Regional Headquarters in Kolkata. While the four that are to be received would be operating from Bhubaneswar, one of these could be sent to Frasergunj once the force has a proper base there. The refuelling issue has been sorted with Indian Oil setting up a dump at , Frasergunj," the official added.
According to another officer, any investment in Frasergunj would benefit the local economy immensely. The plans of the state government to create a major tourism hub in that region would also benefit with the Coast Guard keeping watch on marine activities.