NEW DELHI: The defence ministry on Friday said it had devised “a standardized protocol”, in consultation with the Army headquarters, which must be strictly followed by local military authorities if they want to close any road in the 62 cantonments around the country.
This comes after the MoD’s decision in May to allow unrestricted civilian access to all roads in the 62 cantonments had led to widespread protests from military personnel and “separated families”, who stay alone while their husbands are posted in “field” or forward areas, because they said the move had adversely impacted their security.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, maintained the Army had closed 119 roads without following the “due procedure” over the years. While most of the roads were subsequently opened for civilian commuter traffic, 17 roads still remain closed in places like Secunderabad, Pune and Amritsar, among others.
A MoD official on Friday said, “If local military authorities (LMA) consider it necessary to close a road, for which they must provide reasons, the process for closure may be initiated. Due process as laid down under the Cantonment Act, 2006 and the orders issued by the ministry on May 28, 2018 will have to be followed.”
“Emergent security needs of the Army have been duly taken cognizance of while devising the standard protocol to enable closure of roads in such circumstances,” he added. Broadly, the LMA that wants to close a road will first have to inform the cantonment board concerned and after its approval, issue a public notice in at least three newspapers to invite objections and suggestions from the public.
“After due consideration of the objections and suggestions, and due approval of the cantonment board, the proposed order for road closure will be forwarded through the proper channels to the MoD for vetting and the final approval,” said another official.
The defence ministry had taken the decision to reopen all closed roads after several MPs and elected vice-presidents of cantonment boards raised the matter with Sitharaman on May 4, which was followed by several rounds of discussions with officers from the MoD, Army and Defence Estates Organization.