The chief executive officer of the Landour cantonment board near Mussoorie in Uttarakhand has served notices to 22 properties and resorts, being run allegedly illegally inside the highly sensitive cantonment zone.
As per sources within the board, the notices that were served over a period of two months (June and July 2016), has also been given to four guesthouses that are apparently owned by the Mumbai-based hotelier Sanjay Narang. Official sources said that the notices have asked the owners of these properties to explain why and how they carried out the “change of property” (using residential property as commercial) and also sought replies on who gave them the permission, if any, to run these guesthouses and resorts inside the cantonment area.
According to an official source, the board, which for many years turned a blind eye to the construction of hotels and resorts inside the cantonment area, was forced to act after some officials of the Institute of Technology Management (ITM), a laboratory of the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), based inside the cantonment, wrote to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking a probe into how private commercial properties were being allowed to come up. The CBI, however, has not initiated any probe until now despite receiving the complaint from a senior DRDO scientist two months ago.
“The nominated member of ITM in the cantonment board and the estate officer of the ITM had taken up the issue of construction of commercial properties, as not only is it illegal, it’s also a big security risk as (it allows) foreign nationals (to) get easy access to the cantonment area because of these commercial establishments,” an official familiar with the development said.
A senior ITM official, who retired last year, stated that they lodged an official complaint with the Landour cantonment board regarding the illegal constructions way back in 2007, but no action was taken. In fact, more resorts came up in the cantonment area.
However, despite more than two months of the notice being served, the owners of these properties have not yet replied, which, according to cantonment board officials, shows their lack of respect for the law. “They are all high and mighty people with money and political power. They know that the matter will ‘die’ in a few months and they will manage everything. The fact that they have been running resorts and hotels for so many years in this super sensitive area shows the kind of clout they enjoy and the ‘support’ that they got from the previous cantonment board members who literally turned a blind eye to their activities,” an official with the board said.
Official sources said that despite Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s clear message that action should be taken against the people behind these illegal resorts in Landour, the Landour cantonment board was facing difficulty in taking any strong action against the illegal guesthouses because of the political clout enjoyed by the owners.