Furore in Parliament over Army presence in Kolkata

Opposition members protest in the well of the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after the issue of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s flight to Kolkata being delayed rocked Parliament, the Opposition on Friday took strong objection to the Army taking over toll plazas at 19 locations in Bengal.

While underlining their respect for the Army, Opposition sought to know whether this was not a violation of the federal structure.

‘Oppn. politicising Army’

The government on its part said the deployment was a “routine exercise” that had taken place in other parts of the country too, hitting out at the Opposition for “politicising” the army.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the army was India’s pride as it has upheld its unity and integrity by protecting borders and also rescued people during natural calamities. But in Bengal, he said, the chief secretary, administration and DG Police had no information of the Army taking over toll plazas.

“This is probably the first time that the Chief Minister of West Bengal has lodged this kind of protest where she stayed put for the night in the State Secretariat and is still there,” he said. “This is a strange thing happening. Without asking State government, chief secretary or DGP, toll plazas of the State are taken over.”

Responding to the Opposition allegations, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a statement in the Lok Sabha, termed the exercises “routine”.

The Minister said similar operations had last month been conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand to collect information on heavy vehicle movement that could be used during national emergencies.

Army exercise routine: Parrikar

Questioning the rationale of the government’s claim that the Army’s presence at 19 locations in West Bengal on Thussday was to collect information on truck movements, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed such an exercise was not conducted even in Jammu and Kashmir. All such information is available with National Highways Authority of India or road transport departments, he added. The concerns were echoed by the TMC’s Derek O'Brien and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy of the AITC.

In the Lok Sabha, TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the move was a challenge to the federal structure of the country.

Refuting the Opposition charge, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a statement in the Lok Sabha said, “It is shocking that a Chief Minister is saying this. The Army’s deployment was part of routine exercise which has been going on for several years, which has been going on for last 15-20 years. Even last year it was held on November 19 to 21.”


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 4:41:55 PM |

Next Story