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Army deployed at toll booths in Bengal, Mamata labels it 'coup-like situation'

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:38 IST

West Bengal witnessed an unusual controversy on Thursday night, when the state administration raised a hue and cry over the presence of Indian Army personnel at toll booths across the state.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters late at night that it was a 'military coup-like situation' that the state was witnessing.

She said: "A military coup-like situation is prevailing in Bengal, and the army has been pressed in 18 districts."

She also tweeted about it, objecting to the presence of army personnel in front of the state secretariat, Nabanna, and stated that they had been deployed there without the state government's permission.

She also tweeted that the situation was not just limited to the vicinity of her office.

Speaking to reporters at around 1:30am, Banerjee also said that despite repeated requests to the army personnel to withdraw from in front of Nabanna, as it was a high security zone, they withdrew only late at night, and would again be deployed on the second Hooghly Bridge on Friday morning.

Army says it was a routine exercise

The Eastern Command of the Indian Army, which is headquartered at Fort William in Kolkata, stated that this was a routine matter, and that the state government had been taken into confidence.

Eastern Command PRO Simranpal Singh Birdi stated: "The army conducts biannual exercises throughout the country, with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency. For this purpose, vehicles are spotted to get basic parameters like make, load capacity, etc. The vehicle is then marked so that the next checkpoint knows that the vehicle had already been checked for the parameters. There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders. This gives an estimate about the number of vehicles that are passing a certain area that could be tapped during operations.

"The army is conducting a routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with the West Bengal Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect."

However, Mamata accused the army of misleading the public.

The West Bengal Police corroborated the Chief Minister's version of events.

Banerjee has claimed that this is nothing but political vendetta against the state government, as she is opposing the Centre's demonetisation drive.

She stated: "I want to know why Army has been pressed into service in Bengal without giving any information to the state government and district administrations."

Banerjee also said she had spoken to the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Kerala, but the army hadn't been deployed in any of these states.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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