Access to cantonment roads sparks row

Not consulted, say families of personnel; backlash could force a review

May 26, 2018 09:14 pm | Updated 09:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The government’s decision to throw open all roads in the 62 Cantonment areas around the country to unhindered civilian traffic has led to much confusion and anger in military circles.

Army sources said the decision would be reviewed in a month’s time, though the backlash and confusion could force an earlier response from the Ministry.

The decision was based on several complaints from civilians, especially those living in cantonment areas, about harassment from Army personnel who man barricades and entry and exit points of cantonments.

After consultation

Official sources said the decision followed representations and consultations that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had with elected representatives and Members of Parliament from Cantonment areas. There were 52 roads that were completely shut to civilians in 22 Cantonments, and 47 roads in 15 cantonments that had barricades for restricted entry.

The decision has resulted in an unusually aggressive backlash from military circles, especially from military wives and children. Their social gatherings, social media postings and WhatsApp groups have been buzzing against the order, since it was implemented on May 22.

A group particularly upset is of military families who occupy the ‘separated family’ accommodation in places like Delhi. Separated family accommodations are allotted to families when officers are posted to the field.

A group of military wives is drafting an appeal against the order, while others say the decision has been taken without taking into consideration the concerns of those living within cantonments. “Clearly, the Ministry has taken into account the inconveniences of civilians who pass through Cantonment or live there. However, they have not bothered to check about us,” another family member said.

A senior Army officer, however, said there are still some confusion over the order. “We hope some clarity next week,” he said.

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