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Featured Image: Army deployment at Palsit toll plaza in Burdwan. Photo posted by Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien on Twitter. 

Newsmen Bureau

Kolkata, 01 December: WEST Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the Centre of deploying Army at civil locations in the in the state keeping her government completely in the dark.

“About an hour ago we got to know and have also verified that Army soldiers have been deployed in at least in two places ~ at Dankuni (on the outskirts of Kolkata) and Palsit (in Burdwan) toll plazas that are operated by the National Highway of India. This is unacceptable; Army has been deployed without informing the state,” Banerjee said at a hurriedly called Press conference at Nabanna around 06 pm.

“Army is our asset. There are times when Army is deployed in civil areas, usually, during disasters.  But that is done with prior information to the state authorities. In this case, we have had no information at all.”

“This is very serious and I have asked chief secretary to write to the Centre at once lodging our protest. I shall also apprise the President on this if I get a scope,” she said.

“In a federal structure, the jurisdiction and functions of the Centre and State are well defined. Even if it is a mock drill, the permission of the state should have been sought.”

The Chief Minister asked whether “Emergency been imposed in the country without declaration for only during Emergency Centre can take over state’s powers. “If this is happening in Bengal today, it can happen in Punjab tomorrow; I would alert all other states about such move by the Centre.”

The Army, however, has allayed the apprehension expressed by the Bengal CM and has claimed that it was a scheduled annual exercise “carried out as per (Central) government orders.”

“The Army conducts annual exercise throughout the county with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the Army in case of a contingency. For this purpose vehicles are spotted to get basic parameters like make load capacity etc. The vehicle is then marked so that the next checkpoint knows that the vehicle had already been checked for the parameters,” Defence ministry chief spokesperson in Kolkata Wing Commander SS Birdi has said.

“This gives an estimate about the number of vehicles that are passing a certain area that could be tapped during operations. The three day exercise began yesterday and would continue tomorrow,” he added.

Asked whether the state was informed about this in advance, Birdi said that the information was not available with him at this point.

As regards, Bengal CM’s allegation that the state was not informed, the Defence spokesperson said: “That should not be a cause for worry because this is not disrupting traffic, firstly, and secondly, it is held twice a year and is as per government orders.”