by Brig Arun Bajpai

After Uri Army Camp and Pathankot Air Base attacks of recent past, almost daily attacks of jihadists taking place in Kashmir valley on security forces camps, Jammu Sector Kaluchak Army Cantonment jihadist attack in which 23 members of security forces, their families and children died a few years back, it is unthinkable that somebody can be so dense that all 87 Cantonment roads in 62 Cantonments of Army , some closed for almost two decades, were all thrown open to public in one go, jeopardising lives and limb of armed forces soldiers, their families and children for no fault of theirs by the new lady Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on request of some BJP Netas having scant regards for national security. What is even more surprising that the hierarchy of Army and its Chief General Bipin Rawat, promoted after superseding two most capable Army Commanders, did not even utter a whimper against this most stupid order ? Only person who has taken stand is Southern Army Commander Lt General Soni.

Just about a week back Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in consultation with the Babus straddling the Ministry of Defence (MOD), ordered that all 87 Cantonment roads in 62 cantonments in India be opened to public, directly affecting the security of cantonments, till now the responsibility of the Local Military Commanders of the Army on the spot. No thought was given to the fact that in these 62 Army Cantonments lakhs of families and children of the Army persons stay, specially of those Army personnel who are deployed in difficult border areas doing their duty with full focus on the enemy knowing that their families and children are safe, guarded by their brothers in Arms currently located in peace areas in cantonments. After this stupid order will this be possible? How this defence minister and her Babu advisers living in all security in their air conditioned bungalows in Delhi, expect that this soldier living in very difficult border area conditions, whose family he feels threatened, will still concentrate on enemy ? If security has no meaning then why just 900 MPs, ministers, Babus including Nirmala Sitharaman are guarded round the clock by 47000 police and para military persons? This does not include 3889 MLAs guarded by the respective state police forces.

These Cantonments both in India and Pakistan had come up during British days with an aim to keep Army away from the hustle and bustle of civil cities so that armed forces personnel can concentrate on their military duties and training with their families living in safety. That is why all cantonments were 8-10 kms away from the cities. However over a period of time these cities have expanded and have come up to close vicinity of Army Cantonments. Nevertheless Army has kept its cants clean, well planted with trees and interspersed with green parks. While the local military commanders did not block any main road or national highway passing through these cants, about 20 such roads, rest which are Army roads made by Army funds and maintained as such had restricted entry or no entry keeping security in mind. Now after these roads have been opened, the civil crowed are openly urinating in Cantonment areas, some were even found defecating, in keeping with the spirit of Swatch Bharat, litter gets thrown all over, anti social elements are found loitering in Cantonments, Is this what Modi Government in general and Nirmala Sitharaman in Particular wanting that entire fabric of Armed Forces gets demoralised? Compare this with security in Pakistani Cantonments where very recently the Naval Guard at the entry road of Mehran Naval Base near Karachi shot 14 year old son of an Air Marshal of Pakistani Air Force because this boy tried to rush through without disclosing his identity.

What these Netas and Babus do not understand that these barriers are necessary and security checks are important because you can check ID of the individual at the entry point only of the Cantonment and even body check suspicious persons. This is now common practice not only in India but world over. Do we not have to undergo security checks in Air Travel? In America they even strip check you. So what is wrong if at the entry points of the Cantonments if ID Checks that also on random basis are carried out? After all very costly war equipment and weapons are housed in Cantonments which are of very sensitive in nature. We do not want enemy spies to take their photos and send them across the border. Similarly if jihadists who are now prowling all over the world, decide to enter a school in Cantonment and kill students, as they did in Pakistan where they killed 170 school kids in Peshawar will Nirmala Sitharaman or Babus of MOD take the responsibility ? All in all this opening of all roads of Cantonment to public which include anti social elements is one of the most foolish orders and should be withdrawn at the earliest lest a calamity takes place.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same