Trinamool Congress has come out strongly against the army deployement at road toll plazas in West Bengal. Taking up the issue in both houses of Parliament on Friday, the TMC – which is running a state government in West Bengal – sought answers form the Centre over the deployed of army on 19 toll plazas across the state.
On the other hand, the Centre denied the charges, saying it was a routine exercise conducted in full knowledge of the local authorities. The army too denied the charges that its personnel collected money at the toll plazas, as alleged by the TMC.
In Kolkata, there was a high drama yesterday with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee staying put at the state secretariat building for the night, even after the force was removed from a toll plaza near it as per her demand. “I am the custodian of common people. So I can’t leave them insecured. I will stay put here for the whole night and observe the situation,” she had told the press pack Thursday night.
On Thursday, her lawmakers in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha took up the issue even as other Opposition parties – Congress and BSP – joined in to seek clarifications from the government.
Replying to TMC’s contention in Lok Sabha, Union Defence Minister Manmohar Parrikar termed the deployment of army personnel at toll plazas a “routine exercise”. Clarifying it was “not unique to West Bengal”, Parrikar said similar operations to collect information on heavy vehicle movement that can be used during national emergencies were conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand last month.
Along with West Bengal, similar exercise was carried out in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghlaya and Mizoram, he added.
“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,” Parrikar said.
Amid uproar in the lower house, the Defence minister also told that Kolkata police was informed about the exercise.
“Concerned officials were informed in West Bengal. The original date was fixed for November 28 to 30 but due to Bharat Bandh the local police had advised the army to shift it to December 1 and 2,” he said.
In Rajya Sabha, Trinammol MP Sukhedu Shekhar Roy raised the issue, who got support from the Leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and BSP chief Mayawati.
MoS Defence, Dr. Subhash Bhamre replied to the opposition’s contention in the Upper House.