Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman told mediapersons on Tuesday that Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and other top brass of the force were consulted before the government decided to allow civilian access to roads in military cantonments across the country.
At a press conference, Sitharaman said a total of 850 roads were closed in various cantonments, out of which 119 were blocked without following laid down procedures and now some 80 of them have been opened while 24 remain closed and rest of the 15 have been partially opened. Of the 39 roads that remain closed despite the order for their re-opening; 14, the highest, are in Secunderabad.
The defence ministry last month had decided to allow civilian access to the roads in 62 cantonments after Sitharaman held a meeting on 4 May with a group of MPs, elected office-bearers of cantonment boards and senior army officials. Post which, a country-wide signature campaign was launched by wives of army officers who appealed to the defence minister to meet them and address their concerns.
"I met the wives of the Armed Forces personnel and heard their concerns which were largely about the security. I fully appreciate that", Sitharaman said. She said that before the 4 May meeting with elected representatives, she held four meetings with senior army officials. According to an NDTV report, she said five other meetings were held including ones with Gen Rawat and Vice Chief of the Army Staff.
"The order by the ministry of defence addresses traffic related issues. Places where unit lines exist or where families of our servicemen are living, we are cautious about its security," said Sitharaman. According to a report in The Times of India, Sitharaman said, "proper procedure means that the LMA will make an announcement (one in English and two in local newspapers) and inform the cantonment board. And then close the road. LMA and concerned stakeholders will do the review. If they decide to close the roads based on intelligence input, they are welcome to do so. But due procedure needs to be followed".
The MPs and elected officials of cantonment boards had strongly pitched to allow civilians unhindered access to the roads. However, families of army officers felt the decision may expose the cantonments to security risks as military bases have recently been targeted by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
Here is an infographic explaining the breakup of cantonment area covered under each military command across India:
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 16:00 PM