The Army exercise which has sent the Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, in a tizzy is not one which is restricted to the state of Bengal or North East alone, but one which is carried out throughout the country at periodic intervals for operational reasons.
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The exercise is done by stationing troops at strategic places along the state or national highways, which may include toll plazas, in order to get an accurate information of the number of average load bearing vehicles, trucks and buses, which pass through that particular area. The troops who are stationed for this exercise note down the make of the truck or bus and the load carrying capacity of it along with the frequency with which such vehicles pass through the area in the duration of the exercise. Normally this exercise is carried out twice a year all across the country.
The compilation of this data gives an average figure to the local Commanders of the static formation, which means the Sub Area or the Area Headquarters, who will need to refer to it when an operational mobilisation takes place. During operational mobilisation the Army may require to hire a number of civilian vehicles in order to ferry troops and equipment in addition to the Army’s own fleet of transport vehicles. The requisition of the Civil Hired Transport or CHT, as it is known in the Army, is done by referring to the average availability figures which are gathered through such exercises.
The last time when the Army had to hire large scale civilian vehicles was in the general mobilisation of Operation Parakram following the attack on the parliament in December 2001. This included buses to transport the troops and trucks to carry the equipment. The owners and drivers of the requisitioned vehicles are paid for the services of the vehicle and the staff for as long as the operational necessity might be.
The Army exercise is carried out after due liaison with the state government as well as the state police. According to Major General Krishan Khorana (retd), a former Major General-in-Charge-Administration of Western Command, the dates of the exercise are given in advance to the civilian administration and are finalised in close coordination with them. “I have never seen any problem arising from such exercises as these are routine in nature. The Army never goes and conducts them on their own without taking the state government into confidence,” he said.