Kolkata: In a hurriedly called press conference on Thursday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the army had been deployed at two toll plazas on National Highway 2—at Palsit and Dankuni—in West Bengal without the state administration being briefed on the matter.
She said the army was stopping passing vehicles and conducting some kind of surveillance, but that it wasn’t clear to her what the army was up to. The state, she said, would file a strong rejoinder with the Centre for gross violation of protocol, which requires the army to brief the state administration even for mock drills.
An official at the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), however, quickly clarified that it is a routine exercise conducted by the army every year to gather data on the movement of goods vehicles. It had nothing to do with the cargo they were carrying, this person added. The exercise was supposed to be carried out on 20-30 November but got delayed.
It is a data-gathering exercise to prepare for contingency, said a spokesperson for the army. Such exercises are carried out across the country from time to time to assess the load carriage capacity of vehicles that routinely pass by important bases.
For the second time in two days, Banerjee has complained of a conspiracy. On Wednesday evening, she alleged that her flight from Patna ran low on fuel as it approached Dum Dum airport. Trinamool Congress lawmakers raised the issue in Parliament on Thursday, alleging that it was a conspiracy against Banerjee and that it could have been a bid on her life.
Indigo Airlines clarified on Thursday that a miscommunication between its pilot and air traffic control at Dum Dum led to the panic. The plane carrying her had enough fuel to hover over Kolkata for at least eight minutes and still get diverted to a nearby airport.
That is what the pilot conveyed to air traffic control at Dum Dum, but it got the impression that the plane had fuel to be in air for only eight minutes and was hence given priority landing with fire-trucks and ambulance on standby as is the protocol.