Even after the latest directive from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, residents in Secunderabad cantonment complain that 14 roads, out of the 25 roads in the area whichwere closed to civilians in violation of rules, continue to remain fully or partially closed to them.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday, the minister spoke at length on the issue and said that about 850 roads had been closed in the 62 cantonments across India.
Around 11 roads in the Secunderabad cantonment area were reopened last month after a directive from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The directive came after the Defence Minister convened a meeting with Members of Parliament and elected Vice Presidents of all 62 Cantonment Boards on May 4.
â€śFour meetings were held with top officials of the army where all stakeholders were present before that particular meeting. After that, Iâ€™ve held eight meetings. If the roads were shut for several years, was there a reason or review as to why the roads were closed,â€ť the minister said.
â€śThis doesnâ€™t apply to military stations. It is only for cantonments where civilians and army officials live together and which may have unit lines or quarters. After a ground level cross-verification, we have come to know that 850 roads were closed. Among these, 119 roads were closed without following the procedure,â€ť she added.
The minister also said that despite her directive, 24 roads continued to be closed and 15 were only partly open.
â€śThe complaints which were coming from the elected representatives have some reason somewhere. Even among the 119, only 80 roads have been reopened. MoDâ€™s decision has come and there is genuine concern. However, the rules were not followed,â€ť she said.
The minister also said that she met with the wives of serving officers and their concerns were largely about security. She added that a review would be conducted in one monthand Local Military Authorities (LMAs) were free to close the roads as far as they followed the procedure.
Welcoming the Defence Ministerâ€™s statement, S Chandrasekhar from the Open Secunderabad Cantonment All Roads (OSCAR) said, â€śWe welcome the MoD press meet with full clarifications on Cantonment roads. We request the MoD to depute high ranking officials to look into the state of affairs of the Secunderabad cantonment.â€ť
â€śWe citizens are watching haplessly. Those who are prima facie guilty must be transferred immediately and an inquiry must fix the guilty to be punished by court martial since the LMA has set a new precedent by not following orders, which amounts to perjury,â€ť he added.
Secunderabad cantonment is a densely populated area with 4 lakh civilians living inside it and another 6 lakh living in the areas abutting it.
The closure of roads affected several residents living in adjoining areas such as Marredpally, Neredmet, Safilguda, Sainikpuri, Ammuguda and Yapral, among several others, potentially affecting 10 lakh citizens.
Citizens have been up in arms as the LMA, over a period of time, shut 25 roads in the area. Some of these included arterial roads that turned even an 800-metre ride into an 8-km detour.
Out of the 25 roads, civilians say that only the following roads have been open to the public fully or partially:
Rajendra Sinhji Road (Amherst Road), Hakimpet â€“ Cantonment Garden Road, Golf Course â€“ Balaji Nagar Road, Puri Singh Marg, Cariappa Road, FEL Circle â€“ Rajiv Rahadari Road, FEL Circle â€“ Lal Bazar Road, Gough Road, Mornington Road (Western part open from SH1 to Gough Road), Wellington Road, Ordinance Road and Entrenchment Road.