With the West Bengal government up against the double whammy of the ravages of Cyclone Amphan and the C-virus, it defies logic why chief minister Mamata Banerjee is considering calling out the army to help out with relief, rescue and restoration.
The Eastern Army headquarted in Kolkata’s iconic Fort William has definitive plans on relief operations during floods, cyclones and earthquakes or internal security issues like riots or 26/11 type terror attacks.
” Army is the only national institution that continuously updates plans for relief operations in different scenarios , much as it updates battle plans,” said a retired Lieutenant General but on condition he is not named to ‘avoid needless controversy.’
“With the Bengal administration clearly struggling to cope with the huge challenges, they will find the army a huge help,” the retired officer said, pointing to how Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina is using the army to handle both cyclone relief and tge pandemic.
“Mamata has funny ideas about the army that she better gives up. The Indian army is a professional force. Hasina who lost much of her family in the 1975 coup knows how to use the army when needed,” said the retired officer.
On December 1, 2016, Mamata Banerjee raised a furore over the presence of the Army in some Kolkata toll plazas including one near the West Bengal secretariat, Nabanna.
However, the Army and the government dismissed the CM’s claim of an ‘Emergency type situation” saying it was a routine exercise practised by the Army, which had began on November 27 and will be carried out across the country.
“There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders,” said wing commander SS Birdi at that time.
“Army formations in Eastern Command at local levels are carrying out routine annual data collection exercises in coordination with local police authorities. Exercise involves collection of data in all North Eastern states, including Assam, Arunachal, West Bengal, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Sikkim,” he added.
This is an annual logistics assessment exercise that the army carries out to assess transport capabilities ik the event of a war or internal crisis.
But Mamata Banerjee , in an act of buffonery said she would stay at the secretariat to “guard our democracy,” and asked reporters : “Is this a military coup?”
She said that Army personnel were present in different districts like Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North 24 Paraganas, Burdwan, Howrah, Hooghly et al.
“The Army is deployed without informing the state government. This is unprecedented and a very serious matter”, Banerjee said.
But in same of an unprecedented crisis when even her never-say-die spirit looks defeated by the mounting post Amphan challenges, Mamata may do well to call out the army in aid of civil authorities.
The Indian city of Kolkata has been left devastated by the worst cyclone it has seen in 100 years, which swept through India and Bangladesh on Wednesday and killed at least 98 people.
Kolkata, home to almost 15 million people, bore the brunt of Cyclone Amphan, which tore roofs off buildings, smashed windows, pulled down trees and pylons and overturned cars.
Most of the fatalities were caused by falling trees or electrocution. Millions of people were left without power and telephone connection, and some areas were without drinking water.
Mamata Banerjee, said the damage was like “nothing I have seen in my life” and two districts of the city had been “completely devastated. We have to rebuild those districts from scratch.”
She said: “Area after area has been ruined. I have experienced a war-like situation today.”
That is precisely why she needsthe army to handle it.