The issue of closure of cantonment roads has been on a rise when the defence ministry ordered to open up the roads for the public.
What exactly is the issue?
It all started in the Secunderabad Cantonment area when the issue of road closures was taken up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when Malkajgiri MP C.H. Malla Reddy along with other representatives met him in New Delhi. They submitted a memorandum pertaining to closure of roads and others issues in Secunderabad Cantonment Board. Mr Modi promised to direct Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and find a permanent solution at the earliest.
The Cantonments came up during the British era and were exclusive areas where service personnel and their families resided. Over the years, cities have expanded and a large number of civilians now reside in close proximity of the Cantonments. Some of these civilians provide essential services to military personnel and their families, while others find the environs of military areas conducive to settle down. Whilst the passage through Cantonments to civilians who give support to military personnel is provided for mutual benefit, the others who are denied the passage feel aggrieved. The latter have often raised the issue of closure of roads through Cantonments which facilitates access to their residential areas.
Some good public schools and Army Public School also exist in Cantonments. Children from civilian background are studying in these schools and cannot be denied access. Hence, a large number of roads have remained open to civilian traffic, even before the orders for opening other roads were promulgated. Therefore, access to additional areas within Cantonments has now been allowed.
The Decision to Open Roads
Some roads were unilaterally kept closed for very long periods and a review was essential. A number of iterations were carried out with all stake holders where views expressed by all concerned were deliberated upon. After giving due thought to the likely implications on the opening of roads, a considered decision was taken to open roads in military areas for one month and thereafter review the nature of traffic passing through these areas.
Decision on opening or closure of roads will be taken after a feedback from Local Military Authorities (LMA) on whether roads can be opened for civil traffic, completely, selectively or as in the past.
Compromise with Security
There seems to be some apprehension in the minds of military personnel and their families that the opening of roads may lead to a security situation or traffic congestion. Concerns are flagged by soldiers, their families and veterans that opening these roads to civilians will compromise security.
It is clarified that this is a deliberate, calibrated and monitored exercise. The aim of opening roads in Cantonments is to streamline the process of closure where required after carrying out assessment of the nature of traffic moving through Cantonments by following due procedure.
A freehand has been given to the LMA to close and control access to the Cantonments when there is actionable intelligence input or in case of emergencies. A simplified procedure will shortly be issued to jointly address the needs of the local public and the military establishment.
Army Wives Object
A country-wide signature campaign against the government decision has been launched by wives of army officers. They say they would meet the defence minister urging her to reverse the cantonment board decision.
The issue of closure of individual roads will be reviewed de novo, in conformity with the provisions as laid down, and any closure of roads to be undertaken, will be done only after following the due procedure. A simplified detailed standard operation procedure would shortly be issued to jointly address the needs of the local public and the military establishment.