By Sujoy Dhar
Kolkata: The Army on Friday released a series of letters to prove that it had not made any deployment without informing the West Bengal Police and authorities about some routine exercises in some toll plazas, including the one of the second Hooghly Bridge near state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah.
After Chief Minister alleged last night that there is an army coup like situation and she would not leave Nabanna building to protect democracy, the Army in a press conference dismissed with contempt the charges that their personnel were collecting money from toll plazas.
The officiating GoC of Bengal area, Major Gen Sunil Yadav, clarified the stand of the army on the issue. He said it is “an annual exercise carried out every year.” He said it is annual data collection exercise on availability of load carriers at major entry points and in coordination with local police authorities.
He said the exercise dates were even changed at the specific request of the state’s police.
“We had carried out a similar exercise last year from Nov 19 to 25, in the same location,” he said, adding that similar exercies were carried out by the army in Bihar and Jharkhand in Sept.
While the Trinamool Congress raised the issue in Parliament, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also said that the Bengal authorities were informed well in advance. He called it political frustration of the Trinamool Congress.
West Bengal Police, however, tweeted that “in almost all areas of West Bengal army has been deployed without consent of the State Govt.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday night said that she would not leave state’s main administrative building Nabanna until the Centre withdrew army personnel from a toll plaza near the Secretariat even as the Army in a statement said they were present in the area for a routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination of state police.
Mamata Banerjee, however, said it was very unfortunate that army was stationed in front of Nabanna and she would not leave the building and remain there to guard democracy. She said the move was in retaliation of her stance on the issue of demonetisation by the Narendra Modi government.
Eastern Command, tweeted: “Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect.”
“Routine exercise in all NE states. In Assam @ 18 places, Arunanchal@13, WB@19, Manipur@6, Nagaland@5, Meghalaya@5, Tripura & Mizoram@1@adgpi,” the tweet said.
Besides Palsit toll plaza in Burdwan and Dankuni toll plaza in Hooghly district, few army personnel were seen in Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge) toll plaza, which are very close to state’s main administrative building Nabanna.
Holding a press conference here at Nabanna at around 10 pm, Mamata Banerjee said, “Creating a military coup like situation, army personnel have been stationed to several toll plazas in the state, including Vidyasagar Setu toll plaza in front of Nabanna, without informing the government.”
“This is only a politics of revenge, as I’m shouting for people over demonetisation issue. As I’m the guard of the state and democracy, I will be staying at the secretariat till the Centre withdraws army,” Banerjee added.
Bengal Chief Minister also alleged that army was collecting money from trucks, after checking those papers and was posting a sticker on vehicles’ windscreens.