4 yrs on, Coast Guard Ratnagiri air station yet to take off
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By now, Coast Guard (CG) Chetaks and Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) should have been taking off from Ratnagiri for surveillance of the 700-km Maharashtra coastline.
Proposed in 2006 and hastily sanctioned by the Maharashtra government after 26/11, the CG Ratnagiri airfield is yet to take off. With two of the three plots for which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made full payment being transferred only this year, and the third yet to be handed over, CG officials say commissioning of the air station before 2014 is doubtful.
The CG has a fixed and a rotary wing squadron at Daman, to the north of Mumbai, and a rotary wing squadron in Mumbai. Ratnagiri being the only air station south of Mumbai before Goa, is crucial.
The Defence Estates Office (DEO), Pune Circle, is pursuing the land transfer.
On May 17, 2006, Mumbai-based Western Naval Command requested the Maharashtra government to hand over the airstrip at Ratnagiri for naval operations. On December 1, 2006, the decision to hand over 41,000 square metres of the airstrip plot and two plots, H-1 and H-2, measuring 1.58 lakh square metres was taken by the state government.
It remained in cold storage until 26/11 made security of the western coast a crucial issue.
On January 19, 2009, within two months of 26/11, the state government issued a GR to urgently transfer the airstrip and the adjacent Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) plots to the MoD.
The GR was followed by land measurement that determined its cost to be Rs 20.47 crore, Rs 12.52 crore for the airstrip plot and Rs 7.95 crore for MIDC plots H-1 and H-2.
On August 4, 2010, T C Sharma, under secretary, GoI in a letter sanctioned payment of the Rs 20.47 crore. The payments were made on September 29, 2010. On October 28, 2010, the Ratnagiri collector ordered the transfer to CG.