The Army on Friday said that the deployment in Bengal is part of its routine exercise and would not be withdrawn.
“Army deployment (in West Bengal) won’t be called off; it is a routine exercise and will continue until midnight Friday,” said Wing Commander S S Birdi, CPRO of Eastern Command.
“But I came to know that the army has once again started its exercise in two to three spots. But we don’t know the reason. Our home secretary has written a letter today asking to withdraw the army wherever they are still present. If they do not withdraw and continue the exercise without taking permission of the state government, we will take legal action and the law will take it’s course,” the Bengal CM said.
“The Centre has claimed that the exercise was conducted after taking necessary permission. I would like to say that it is absolutely wrong and the information is misleading the people,” she clarified. In Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar termed it a “routine exercise not unique to West Bengal” and saying that similar operations to collect information on heavy vehicle movement that can be used during national emergencies had last month been conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Countering Parrikar’s claims, Mamata said that the exercise had not taken place in many states including Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, the Bengal CM asked “Why has it taken place only in Bengal?”
“There is more than Rs 50 lakh crore of black money abroad. But not a single penny has returned. Black money hoarders and money lenders are actually now getting benefitted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have started a new game by going into a 50-50 deal with the black money hoarders,” she alleged, adding that this comes at a time when common people do not have a penny in their hand.
She wondered, “How will the farmers survive as there is a gap of Rs 1,200 crore in terms of disbursement of loan through co-operative banks compared to the corresponding period last year. Tribal workers in tea gardens are not getting their payments. Jute and construction industry workers are going back to their homes.”
“I know the reason behind such exercise. It has been done because we are raising our voice for the people. People are suffering as they cannot withdraw money or they are getting Rs 2000 notes.”
The row over Army taking over road toll plazas in Bengal on Friday echoed in Parliament with Trinamool Congress (TMC) seeing “sinister” designs behind the move and the government vehemently denying the charge, saying it was a routine exercise conducted in full knowledge of the local authorities.
Congress and BSP too wanted to know from the government how such an unprecedented move to carry out an army exercise without taking state government into confidence was done.
Mayawati (BSP) said the move to deploy army without the state government’s permission was an attack on the federal structure of the country. However, TMC leaders in both Houses alleged that neither the state government nor local administration including police was taken into confidence on the exercise, nor was their permission sought.