Kolkata, Dec 2 (IANS) The Indian Army on Friday denied West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s accusation that troops were deployed at toll plazas while keeping the state government in the dark and said the exercise has been conducted in coordination with local police authorities.
“We deny all charges with all contempt,” said the officiating General Officer Commanding of Bengal area Major General Sunil Yadav.
“Allegations of collection of money by Army from passing vehicles are totally baseless,” he said.
“The Army personnel of Eastern command at the local level are carrying out routine annual data collection exercises on the availability of load carriers at all major entry points in various states. This is being done in coordination with local police authorities,” Major General Yadav told the media.
He said the exercise was planned earlier for November 27-28, but postponed to November 30-December 2 due to specific request by the Kolkata Police due to a shutdown called on November 28.
“This is an annual exercise. A similar exercise was carried out in 2015 at the same locations from November 19-21. There was a similar exercise in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from September 26-October 1 under the South Western Command,” he said.
He said the Army intimated the Kolkata Police as also various authorities of the West Bengal government on November 24 regarding this exercise.
“After receiving certain observations from local police, we replied on November 26, clarifying on the points.”
The Army officer said a joint reconnaisance was conducted by army personnel and two inspectors of Kolkata Police on November 27.
“We mutually identified the locations and telephonically conveyed that the issue has been resolved. This is how we conducted the exercise,” Major General Yadav said.
Asked if there were coordination issues between the state goverment and the Army, the officer said: “There was no coordination problem from our side.”
He refused to comment when asked if the Army would reach out to the West Bengal government to resolve the issue.
The Chief Miniter had accused the Centre of deploying army along a highway toll plaza at the second Hooghly Bridge, about 500 metres from state Secretariat ‘Nabanna’ in neighbouring Howrah district.
On Thursday evening, Banerjee claimed the Army was deployed at Dankuni and Palsit toll plazas on the National Highway 2 (connecting Delhi and Kolkata) without informing her government.–IANS