Row over cantonment road closures is over

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New Delhi : In a significant move, the Defence Ministry and the Indian Army have standardised rules for the closure of roads in cantonment areas across the country without compromising on the security needs of the Army.

An army spokesperson said the standardised protocol was in conformity with the provisions of the Cantonments Act, 2006.

"Emergent security needs of the Army have been duly taken cognisance of while devising the standard protocol to enable closure of roads in such circumstances," the spokesperson said.

The move comes against the backdrop of residents in military cantonment areas challenging the military authority and the powers of Cantonment Boards on their decisions to close roads running through Army areas whenever the military needed to do so.

The issue was raised in a meeting by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with MPs and elected Vice Presidents of the 62 Cantonment Boards on May 4 this year.

It began with Secunderabad Cantonment Board, where the Local Military Authority (LMA) shut multiple roads used by civilians residing in colonies around the cantonment, causing an outrage.

Civilians in other Cantt areas also complained about the closure of roads and additional checks being imposed on entry into cantonments.

The Defence Ministry in May sought details from each Cantonment Board -- a civic administration body that comes under the control of the Defence Ministry. It comprises elected members besides ex-officio and nominated members as per the Cantonments Act, 2006.

This led to a review by the Defence Minister who ordered opening of 85 roads closed by the army in various cantt areas.

Based on the feedback received through the meeting, Sitharaman held several rounds of discussions on the issue of closure of roads in cantonments.

Detailed reviews were taken by the minister with officers of the ministry, Army Headquarters including Chief of the Army Staff and the Defence Estates Organisation.

As such, the spokesperson, said, it was decided that "in case of roads, which the Local Military Authorities consider necessary for reasons to be provided, the process of closure of roads may be initiated.

"Due process as laid down under Cantonment Act, 2006 and the orders issued by the Ministry dated May 28, 2018 will be followed."