Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday told a delegation of Army officers’ wives — who met her with concerns over opening of 62 cantonment roads to public — that she would carry out a review of the order. She told them that she would order the closure of those roads that are recommended by the Local Military Authorities after following the due legal process.
Following The Indian Express report on May 27 about a signature campaign started by the Army officers’ wives demanding reversal of the orders, Sitharaman had tweeted, “Welcome to meet me. Shall hear them with an open mind.” The officers’ wives then sought an appointment with the minister and met her Thursday.
Neela Gokhale, an Army officer’s wife who attended the meeting, said, “After we conveyed to her our concerns, she told us that after one month, those roads which LMA will recommend… will be closed by following the due process of law.”
“She told us that after getting representations from the MPs, she got to know that these roads were closed without following the set procedure of law,” she said.
On May 4, the Defence Minister had held a meeting with MPs and elected vice-presidents of all the 62 Cantonment Boards across the country, along with senior officials of the ministry, Army Headquarters and Directorate General of Defence Estates. Following this, on May 21, the Army Headquarters issued a letter that said, “All barriers, check-posts and roadblocks will be removed. Vehicles will not be stopped or checked.”
On Thursday, Sitharaman told the Army officers’ wives that suggestions will be invited from the public before the closure of roads is ordered.
“There is a high level of intermingling between military and civil areas in the cantonments. Hence it is not possible to segregate them completely… In most cantts there are no boundary walls separating military quarters from civil lines. Hence opening of all partial and fully closed roads in 62 Cantts leaves military families vulnerable to trespass,” said a memorandum submitted to Sitharaman.