WARNS THAT USING ARMY TO BUILD ELPHINSTONE & OTHER BRIDGES WOULD SET BAD PRECEDENT
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has criticized the central government’s unprecedented decision to rope in the Indian Army for rebuilding the Elphinstone bridge in Mumbai as deplorable and an admission of the failure of the government and the Indian Railways.
The Army’s job is to train for war and protect the country’s borders, not to build bridges and clean the roads, said Captain Amarinder, warning against the serious implications of such misuse of the Indian Armed Forces by utilizing their services for non-emergency civilian jobs.
Whatever the urgency of the situation, it does not merit such a decision, which would have adverse long-term implications as it could encourage the civilian authorities to seek Army help for major civilian works every time they find themselves ill-equipped to handle an infrastructural or other challenge, the Chief Minister said, in a statement.
Urging Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to refrain from diverting critical defence resources of the country to civilian works, the Chief Minister said it would set a bad precedent. The minister, said Captain Amarinder, was making the same mistake that Major General BM Kaul, GOC of `Red Eagles’ 4th Division, had made before the 1962 war with China. The scandalous misuse, by him, of military manpower to build accommodation cost the Indian Army heavy during the Sino-Indian war, the Chief Minister pointed out.
Observing that these kind of acts led to severe downgradation of the defence services then, Captain Amarinder warned that the Army would end up suffering similar lowering of its status if the defence ministry does not withdraw its decision to use the armed forces for building civilian bridges in Mumbai.
Citing reports that the Army’s services will be utilized in building a new bridge at Elphinstone station and at two other suburban train stations in Mumbai, the Chief Minister termed the move as atrocious, and said the central and state governments should put their own resources at the disposal of the Railways if the situation was so urgent and serious.
As it is, he pointed out, the Army is regularly used to help out in emergency situations such as floods and earthquakes, and is even engaged in infrastructural development in sensitive areas, such as the North-East. If it is now burdened with the additional task of helping out in other civilian tasks, merely because the civilian authorities are unable to handle it, it would lead to further impacting its resources, said the Chief Minister. It would also lower the morale of the Army personnel, who join the force with a vision to secure the country’s borders and protect its people from the enemy, he added.
The Defence Minister, instead of being party to this decision and announcing it with such pride, should have categorically rejected any such suggestion in the interest of the Armed forces, Captain Amarinder said.