62 Cantonments Opened Across Country For Civilians, Army Families Oppose The Move
Defence Ministry had decided to open civilian access to the roads in 62 military cantonments across the country. This decision was taken in a meeting held last month with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a group of MPs, elected office-bearers of cantonment and Army officials.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a press conference said that the Director General of Defence Estates (DGDE) conducted an exercise wherein a team was sent to Local Military Authorities (LMA) of all cantonment boards. “After this exercise we came to know that 850 roads were under closure in 62 cantonments. From among the 850, 119 were closed without following the laid down procedure. So in a way, the complaints which were coming from elected reps have a reason somewhere,” she said.
This decision has not been received well by a large section of Army officials and their families. The Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) even launched a nation-wide signature campaign against the decision, primarily citing security concerns.
Speaking on the concerns raised by AWWA, Ms. Sitharaman said that out of the 119 roads blocked without following laid procedure, only 80 have been opened while others remained completely or partially closed. She said, “I met the wives of the Armed Forces personnel and heard their concerns which were largely about the security. I fully appreciate that.”
Talking about the decision to open cantonment road to civilians, Ms. Sitharaman said that the decision was taken after a detailed review with feedback from local military authorities.
She said, “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.”
On June 1, jawans performed exercises on a cantonment road in Secunderabad that was recently thrown open to the civilians, and it was quite a direct message that these roads belong strictly to the military. The road was blocked for few hours and the vehicular movements were stalled.
The Logical Indian spoke to one of the AWWA members, she said, “It is an irresponsible decision. Most of the civil establishments are right next to the military cantonments and lot of intermingling between these two areas happen, albeit through proper channels where anyone entering has to take permission and flash ID cards. Now with these roads being open to civilians, it poses a high risk of trespassing.”
“Military police has a smaller strength, it would not be possible for them to keep a keen check on everybody who enters, which would further heighten the risk.”
She also added, “most military establishments are on the outskirts of the city, however, this problem has arisen due to the expansion of cities over the years.”