Army to Continue Exercise With or Without Mamata's Blessings
File photo of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
Kolkata: Clarifying its stance vis-a-vis its stand off with the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, the armed forces maintained that it would continue with its operations of civil vehicle check across the state.
"The three-day operations for routine annual data collections of load carriers at major entry points of the state, which began on 30 November, will conclude tonight as per schedule", said Major General Sunil Yadav, Officiating GOC (Bengal Area).
The statement came even as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued to stay put at the state secretariat, Nabanna, after she refused to leave office on Thursday night in protest against the army deployment which she called a " military coup". Her lieutenant at the Parliament took both Houses by storm on Friday morning over the issue.
The army maintained that all local authorities were informed about the operations well in advance.
"In fact we shifted the dates of the exercise from the earlier scheduled 27-28 November to the current dates based on specific request of the Kolkata Police", the Major General said.
"It's a routine annual exercise that we carry out and the same exercise was conducted from 19-21 November last year at the exact same points," he added.
Major General Yadav, however, rubbished all allegations of the chief minister's oblique reference to army personnel collecting money from vehicles and called it "totally" baseless.
The ongoing exercise involves collection of data from civilian vehicles at 80 check points across 9 north eastern states including West Bengal where checks are taking place at 19 locations, the senior officer clarified adding that similar operations were also carried out at Jharkhand, UP and Bihar between September and November this year.
"We withdrew forces from the Vidyasagar Setu toll plaza adjacent to the state secretariat last night only after we finished collecting the necessary data at that point," the GOC said in response to whether the army was compelled to move its forces after the chief minister's salvo of protests.
"The exercise is carried out to ascertain the availability of vehicles which can be utilised during national emergency. The exercise is also aimed at creating a database on available type of vehicles, ownership, flow of traffic, name of civil trained drivers etc. This will also help us practise smooth coordination with civil authorities which will be required during actual emergency situation," an army communiqué to various Bengal government authorities dated 24 November, 2016, read.
Meanwhile, with no end to the deadlock in sight, Mamata Banerjee continued to stick to her position of "attack on federalism" and her government being kept in the dark about all this till reports last received from her secretariat. Until, of course, the armed forces completes its exercise as scheduled on Friday night.
"We have no confusion about our position regarding this operation," the GOC (Bengal Area) summed up.