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OSCAR Press Statement on the reported proceedings of the SCB Meeting

OSCAR Press Statement on the reported proceedings of the SCB Meeting
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Highlights

The president Cantonment Board is reported to have stated during the meeting that the MOD orders of 07.01.2015 do not apply to the closed roads since the roads are not cantonment roads but roads under military jurisdiction.

Point No. 1
The president Cantonment Board is reported to have stated during the meeting that the MOD orders of 07.01.2015 do not apply to the closed roads since the roads are not cantonment roads but roads under military jurisdiction.

OSCAR has the following to say on this point

The president Cantonment Board did not answer the following questions:

1. Where does it say in the 07.01.2015 MOD orders that the orders do not apply to “military roads”?

2. Where does it say in the Cantonments Act 2006 that the definition of “streets” in the Act does not cover military roads?

3. Are the closed roads not located within the boundaries of Secunderabad Cantonment?

4. If the letter of 07.01.2015 was not to apply to military roads, why is it addressed to the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force? After all the only lands under the direct control and occupation of Army, Navy and Air Force are A1 lands – the same category of lands through which the army claims the closed roads in Secunderabad pass? If the letter of 07.01.2015 was supposed to apply only to roads in “C” Class land such as in Picket, Vikrampuri, Trimulgherry etc., it would have been addressed to the Cantonment Boards and not Chiefs of the Forces.

5. The letter says in its very first line that it was brought to the notice of the MOD that local military authorities have been closing roads in cantonments without having the statutory authority to do so. Is president cantonment board aware of any road in “C” class land, which was closed by local military authority, and which may then have been brought to the notice of the Ministry?

6. Finally, how does the president Cantonment Board explain that the MOD letter of 07.01.2015 is recorded in the Board Minutes of other Cantonment Boards, and that after this letter other Boards in the country have opened roads on A1 land which were closed by local military authorities? How does he explain that Allahabad High Court ruled to reopen roads on A1 land citing the Ministry's orders of 07.01.2015, further ruling that leave alone closing roads – military authorities do not even have policing powers like checking identification documents on these roads? The president Cantonment Board seems to be avoiding the basic point – that public was not using these roads to enter army offices or bungalows – but to pass through from one civilian area to another.

OSCAR wishes to ask the State Government to ask for an explanation from the Ministry of Defence and from the Chief of Army Staff as to why the MOD orders (which were issued 3 months after the Hyderabad HC judgment in the matter) are not being followed in Secunderabad, when they are being followed in other cantonments, and to insist that the orders be followed in Secunderabad too.

Point No. 2
Elected Board members are reported to have stated in the Board Meeting that the CEO had not placed the Ministry of Defence Orders of 07.01.2015 which ordered the reopening of roads which had been closed by any authority other than Cantonment Board.

The CEO, in response, is reported to have contradicted this and claimed that the letter was shown to the Board Members.

OSCAR has the following to say on this point

1. None of the Minutes of the Board Meetings of SCB held after 07.01.2015 have any entry that the MOD letter was placed before the Board.

2. SCB is a public body, and Board Minutes are the primary official record and reference source of the discussions and decisions held in its meetings.

3. The contents of the MOD letter were of supreme importance to the public since lakhs of people are affected by road closure in Secunderabad Cantonment.

4. Principal Director Defence Estates (Southern Command) had given specific instructions to all CEOs under his jurisdiction to place the MOD letter before the ensuing Board Meeting. Similar instructions were also there from Director General Defence Estates.

5. Yet, none of the Minutes record that this MOD letter was ever placed before the Board. The public, other board officials, and anyone else therefore had no official way to know of the existence and contents of this letter issued by MOD, until OSCAR brought this letter to the notice of elected SCB Board Members in November 2015.

6. OSCAR has in its possession signed declarations from all seven elected Board Members stating that they were not made aware by the CEO of the MOD letter in any of the Board Meetings held till date.

7. In these declarations the Board Members also state that they attempted to move a Resolution in several Board Meetings to reopen the closed roads, but were prevented from doing so by the President Cantonment Board, CEO and other nominated members.

It is therefore clear that MOD letter of 07.01.2015 was never placed before Secunderabad Cantonment Board. The explanations offered by the CEO during the Board Meeting are contradicted by the absence of any Board Minutes recording the placement of the MOD letter before the Board, and by the declarations of the elected Board members.

Preventing elected Board members from moving a Resolution is undemocratic and against the spirit of the Cantonments Act 2006, since the main object of the 2006 Act (to replace the earlier 1924 Cantonments Act) was to foster greater democratisation and transparency in cantonment boards, since Cantonment Boards are the Urban Local Bodies identified for Cantonments which have to perform in line with the requirements of the Constitution 74th Amendment.

Point No. 3
It is reported that when an elected Board Member asked how residents of Bolarum and Yapral are supposed to commute when the connecting roads have been closed by the army, the president said that for residents of Yapral three roads are open Kowkoor–Hakimpet, Kowkoor-Ammuguda and Ammuguda-Lothkunta. The president is also reported to have stated that those making a hue and cry are worried because their property values have dropped. He is also reported to have made references to colonies such as Mani Enclave.

It is also reported that members of Holy Trinity Church Bolarum joined OSCAR in the protest at SCB office. They stated that the road closure had resulted in the size of the congregation going down drastically from 3500 to about 300.

On 18.05.2016 the press have reported the army as saying that they have not closed access to Holy Trinity Church and that worshippers are free to access the Church from Rajiv Rahadari.

OSCAR has the following to say on this point

1. The distances from Yapral or Balaji Nagar to Lakdawala junction on Rajiv Rahadari is as much as 6-8 km via the roads mentioned by the president. These distances used to be as little as a few hundred metres when the roads were open. How then can these roads be considered “alternate roads” for the closed direct roads?

2. There is no public transport available now between Lakdawala junction and Yapral/Balaji Nagar. This was available earlier when the roads were open. Hundreds of children in Bolarum grew up walking or cycling to Valerian Grammar School in ten minutes. Today they have to take a bus from Bolarum to Lothkunta, then to Yapral, and then walk a kilometre to Valerian School – taking well over an hour. Yapral residents cannot reach their Primary Health Centre - Govt Hospital Alwal. The only access to Holy Trinity Church now is from Rajiv Rahadari. How are the faithful from Yapral, Balaji Nagar area who used to attend Holy Trinity Church, supposed to reach the Church? Is it any wonder that the congregation strength has dropped from 3500 to 300 now?

3. The president is obviously unaware of the history of this area. Farmers from Yapral and further east had been supplying their produce to the bazars in the west – Bolarum Bazar, Pioneer Bazar, Risala Bazar, Doveton Bazar, etc., since time immemorial. They used the paths and roads through what is now the golf course area to ferry their goods to these bazars, and to buy provisions from there. It is this organic connectivity which has been torn apart by the callous closing of the roads through the golf course area. This is not a long distance inter city journey where a detour of 8 km would make little difference. Here it is a journey of a kilometre or two, made several times a day by residents, to which 8 km is getting added every time.

4. It is precisely because these roads are thoroughfares and lifelines of the area that SCB's own Integrated Transportation Plan identifies all the closed roads as “Major Corridors”. Note that it is SCB – a publicly funded municipal body - which is identifying them as major corridors. Not by military authorities.

Not only SCB – even GHMC Master Plan shows 30 metre (100 feet) roads ending at the points where army have blocked the roads.

5. Are we to still believe then that the closed roads are some private roads? Is it OK for army to block such major thoroughfares and put at risk the development of a large portion of the city?

6. The insinuation that people are agitating because of property prices is laughable, callous and defamatory. It is true that rentals and prices in the area are depressed because of road closure. Retirees and those dependent on rental income are obviously hit by this. But to ignore the tremendous daily inconvenience and expense which people are forced to incur because of road closure, and talk about property prices, indicates utter insensitivity.

7. What does the President's reference to colonies like Mani Enclave (as reported by the press) indicate? Is he comparing the golf course area to a colony like Mani Enclave which is a gated colony sanctioned by HMDA? The plots in Mani Enclave colony belong to individual owners, and the houses are constructed in accordance with the building plans sanctioned by GHMC. Most importantly, the roads in such colonies belong to GHMC. These roads end in the colony itself, and are not through roads. No gated colony exists where a through road is allowed to be blocked.

8. On the other hand the roads closed by the army are all through roads, connecting civilian areas to each other. The land in the golf course area vests in the Govt of India, and not with individuals. What then is the parity between the two cases that the president Cantonment Board (as reported in the press) is trying to establish?

OSCAR requests the Press to give publicity to the true picture, and the obfuscation of facts which seems to be evident from the above

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