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Featured Image: Army’s Bengal Area acting GOC Sunil Kumar Yadav (centre) addressing news persons at Fort William in Kolkata on Friday. Photo: MoD 

Newsmen Bureau

Kolkata, 02 December: ARMY has come up with documentary evidence to prove that it had sent letters in advance to all concerned police and the administrative authorities in Bengal informing about the deployment at toll plazas to collect data on goods vehicles.

Not only this, the Army has said that even a joint inspection with Kolkata Police was carried out on 27 November while selecting the site for this annual exercise within the city limits.

This is even as the controversy over deployment of Army personnel in various toll plazas in Bengal was raised in both houses of the Parliament today morning by Trinamool MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy.

They alleged that this had been done keeping the state in the dark and that it was an “attack on the federal structure” of the country. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Kumari Mayawati also lent their voice to the concerns of the Trinamool MPs.

In response to the allegation, Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar told the Lok Sabha that it was a routine exercise and the Army had indeed informed the state authorities well in advance.

Army letter to Kol Police on toll plaza exercise

“Prior to Bengal, same exercise has happened in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand from 26 September to 01 October. A similar exercise is held every year in all states. The same was held from 19-21 November 2015 and this is being carried out for the past 15 years,” he said.

Parrikar added: “The way that a CM has given statement about the Army has shocked us. This is political frustration more than being a correct statement.”

At Fort William in Kolkata, Major General Sunil Kumar Yadav, acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army’s Bengal Area, told a news conference that on 24 November they had sent letters to police and administrative authorities in Bengal informing that the exercise would be carried out from 10.01 am of 28 Nov to 11.59 pm of 30 November.

“But the same was later postponed to 30 Nov-02 Dec following a request from Kolkata Police who said that there was strike and political rally on 28 November and conducting the exercise on that day would cause traffic congestion,” the acting GOC said.

He handed over journalists copies of the letters that the Army had sent on 24 November to commissioners of Kolkata Police, Howrah City Police, inspector in-charge of Hastings police station, Howrah district magistrate, RTO Kolkata and the vice chairman of HRBC that runs the toll plaza near Nabanna.

“Similar letters were served to the districts authorities by the local Army units. In fact, on 27 November a joint recce with two inspectors of Kolkata Police was conducted and the site for the exercise in Kolkata was finalised,” Maj Gen Yadav said.

He also outright rejected Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegation that Army personnel were collecting money from vehicles at the toll plazas.

“This is absolutely baseless; if anybody has proof of this the investigative agencies should prove that. I have already said with full contempt that this is entirely baseless; there is no confusion about this on our side,” he said.

The acting GOC said that today being the last day of the three-day exercise, they were still carrying out the same in different parts of Bengal.

Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, is still camping at Nabanna well past noon and firm on her demand that the Army should stop the exercise in all parts of Bengal.