TAMIL NADU

Coast Guard stakes claim over Yacht Club land

CHENNAI May 29 . Considerations of national security have made the Coast Guard stake a claim over a piece of land near the Napier bridge here, where the Royal Madras Yacht Club annex functions.

The Club office-bearers said they were not given any notice and were threatened by the Coast Guard. ``On May 28, when we were on the premises, a Coast Guard sailor armed with a machine gun entered our premises and ordered our members to vacate immediately,'' says the Club secretary, Rakesh Widge.

The Coast Guard says it just cannot allow a club of this nature to function next to its regional headquarters, catering to the entire eastern region. ``We have no control over who comes to the club and what happens there. There are people hanging around till around 2 and 3 a.m. We have been asked to maintain extra vigil. I am only carrying out my brief,'' says the CG eastern region commander, R. S.Vasan.

The club says it is well aware of the threats and would be willing to close down for a few months, if a request was made. Members point out that the club had existed for 92 years and its members were issued passes to enter the Madras Port. ``We are as concerned about security as anyone else,'' one member said.

Commodore Vasan says that he was not questioning anyone's patriotism. ``The fact is that we have asked the State Government for this land also for our hovercraft operations. The club's lease on this land expired in 1999. The Government has also told us in principle that they would handover this land to us. Only the paperwork is pending,'' he said.

He added that when he met the club representatives they had assured him all cooperation and wondered why an issue was being made of now. The club says that it had also applied for an extension of the lease and this was being considered by the Government.

The impasse continues as the club says that it will not let the Coast Guard bulldoze them.

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