Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne on Monday, September 3, described the grabbing of military land a security threat, but stressed that the defence officials were responsive to complaints of illegal occupation by real estate sharks.
His remarks come against the backdrop of an expose by a political party that several hundred acres of military land in Jammu and Kashmir, including those around the Srinagar air base, were illegally occupied by land sharks with abetment from defence officials, who issued no-objection certificates (NOC) for transfer of land.
“When we look at it, it is not just a question of land. It is also a question of our security. That cannot be compromised,” the Air Chief said to requests for comments about the reports of land grab from Jammu and Kashmir in the recent months.
Browne, however, clarified that in the current controversy regarding defence land grab in Jammu and Kashmir, there was no Air Force land involved.
“I have got it checked,” Browne said on the media reports on the land grab, adding “there is no IAF land involved”.
The IAF Chief noted that the air force held five pockets of land in the state and all of them were fenced.
“We don’t give NOCs either on ground or air,” he joked.
He also noted that the IAF had “clear instructions that nobody in the service is empowered to issue any NOC at all and hence, do not do so.”
Browne, however, noted that the IAF regularly pointed out to land grabs and any violations of boundary notifications around its bases. “In the last two years, we have seen a positive change in that respect (action against land grabs),” he added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a probe report led by its former MP Kirit Sommaiya, had last month “exposed” the defence land grab in Jammu and Kashmir, and alleged that several defence estate officers were hand-in-glove with the real estate mafia as they had issued NOCs for transfer of several acres of defence land.
The party had claimed that the scam involved land worth several thousand crores of rupees, and that it had lodged a formal complaint with Defence Minister AK Antony in this regard, providing several “evidences and documents” to prove connivance from defence officials in the matter.