New Delhi, Dec 2: Indian Army’s Eastern Command has defended the deployment of troops in West Bengal, calling it an annual practice. While addressing a press conference, Major General Sunil Yadav rebutted the allegations of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. According to Major General Yadav, the state government was informed and kept in loop about the exercise to be enacted by the Army. He further added that the allegations of collecting toll at national highways in the state are ‘baseless’.

Major General Yadav reiterated that the Army was deployed only to collect data regarding the movement of vehicles in the state. “Army formations in Eastern command at local levels are carrying out routine annual data collection exercises on availability of load carriers at all major entry points in various states, in coordination with local police authorities,” he said, further adding that the charge of collecting toll payments is ‘baseless’.

Major General Yadav further added that a similar exercise is underway in other north-eastern states as well. “Exercise involves collection of data in all North Eastern states, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Sikkim.”

Army’s eastern Command has clarified that the personnel deployed at various points along the national highways are unarmed. “Over 80 such collection data points established in entire region, personnel of army consisting of 5-6 at each point are unarmed,” Major General added.

Along with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Home Secretary, Chief Secretary and Kolkata Police Commissioner had reportedly alleged that they were kept in the dark about Army’s deployment. However, Major General Yadav contradicted them saying, “We had informed Kolkata Police, held recce and decided on locations.”

Army’s Eastern Command has further added that Army deployment near Secretariat has been withdrawn as the data collection exercise has been completed in the region.

Mamata Banerjee spends night in secretariat

West Bengal CM did not leave the secretariat last night, alleging that a military coup was underway. According to Mamata, the forces entered into the state with no prior information. She accused Centre of violating federal principles and imposing ‘undeclared emergency’ in her state. The remarks of Mamata were supported by West Bengal Home Secretary, Chief Secretary and Kolkata Police Commissioner.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar retaliates in Parliament

“It is shocking that a Chief Minister is saying this. The Army’s deployment was part of routine exercise which has been going on for several years, which has been going on for last 15-20 years. Even last year it was held on November 19 to 21,” Parrikar said. He further added that the remarks of Mamata Banerjee reflected her political frustration.