Despite Orders from the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Defence, there are some roads in Belagavi Cantonment that are, from time to time, subjected to full closure by the Army officers posted here.
This matter came into sharp focus in the Cantonment Board Meeting of 28th of May 2021, when after, receiving a storm of protests from civilians, both the MPs and the MLA (North) strongly objected to the plan of CEO, Shri Barchaswa, to gift away permanently three of the roads maintained by the Cantonment Board to the Military Engineering Services – in a Cantonment Board Meeting of 19th of March 2021, where no civilian was present.
Paradoxically, two of these roads that are prone to frequent closures – Albert Ekka Road (which is a part of Nagzari Road) and Smart Road (which links the Ganeshpur traffic to the Argan Tank area en route to Chenamma Circle), have absolutely no security features on either side of the roads – just hockey or football grounds, 3 civilian bungalows, some officers quarters, a local Audit Office, or a Mess.
The closure of these roads causes extreme hardship to civilians, who have to take very long detours two or more times every day when petrol prices are set to touch Rs. 100/- very soon.
It also pushes school and college students on to narrow and more dangerous roads – as well as on to the dangerous intersection, as the one at Military Mahadev and Pop-Inn.
This wave of protest against the action of the Brigadier and the CEO to propose a permanent transfer of roads to the Military reached all levels of commands in both the Defence Ministry and the civilian hierarchy here.
Responding to the pleas of the civilian citizens in Belagavi, the Principal Director of Defence Estates, on 19.5.2021, directed the Cantonment Executive Officer to insert in the Agenda all the prior Orders of the Supreme Court, the High Court of Karnataka, and the Ministry of Defence’s Orders on 28th May and 31st May 2018, pertaining to keeping all these roads open.
The new MP, Smt. Mangal Angadi and MP Shri Iranna Kadadi placed their protest letters on the table and informed the Brigadier and the CEO that all Orders of the Supreme Court, High Court, and Ministry of Defence must be strictly obeyed, in letter and spirit.
The procedure laid down by the Ministry of Defence for closing any road should be scrupulously followed. The procedure laid down is as follows
(If any road is proposed to be closed, the Cantonment Executive Officer, after obtaining a Cantonment Board Resolution to that effect, has to publish three advertisements in different languages in three local papers, inviting objections from the civilians residing in the city.
After this, he has to send the objections to the Ministry of Defence, and if it is approved and sent back, three more advertisements have to be placed in three more local papers, only after this may any road be closed. The closure of this road has to be reviewed each and every year after that.)
The MPs and the MLA strongly objected to any transfer of any public roads to the Military.
Shri Anil Benake spoke forcefully on keeping both Albert Ekka Road and Smart Road open at all times. He said he would himself undertake an inspection.
It is to be seen if the matter will be solved at this stage or if the District Magistrate will have to report the matter to the higher Authorities – as per his power under Sec. 56 of the Cantonments Act, 2006.
In the meantime, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from the public as the gates on these roads swung open.