Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma has written to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh opposing the proposed shifting of the Army Training Command Headquarters of (ARTRAC HQ) from Shimla to Meerut. In a two-page letter to the Defence Minister Singh, Congress leader Anand Sharma Wednesday said that the ARTRAC HQ is being shifted from Shimla to Meerut without any justification.
He requested the defence minister to cancel the proposal. "In view of the popular demand and opinion of senior Army officers, including retired service chiefs and strategic experts, I seek your urgent intervention to retain the ARTRAC HQ in Shimla," he said in the letter.
Shimla has been a strategic location for the Indian Army for almost 150 years and was the headquarters of the Indian armed forces even during the British period, he added. After India's Independence, the Western Command headquarters was located in Shimla during Indo-Pak wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971 as well as the Sino-India war of 1962, he said, adding the Army's Western Command was shifted to Chandi Mandir only in 1985.
There would be huge financial implications of relocating the institution from Shimla to Meerut, he said, adding it would have negative impact on the exchequer in term of expenditure of hundreds of crores of rupees which would serve no purpose. "The shifting of such a big Army institution out of Himachal Pradesh would also adversely affect the economy of Shimla and the state and loss of employment opportunities for the local people," he added.
Shimla has been the summer capital of the country and the state will lose its pride if the ARTRAC HQ is shifted out of the state. Sharma requested Singh to cancel the proposal to avoid unnecessary expenditure.
The ARTRAC has been based in Shimla since March 1993 after it was moved here from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. It is housed in heritage buildings dating back to the British era. The buildings once housed the headquarters of the Indian Army during summer months. Earlier in February this year, the Congress Legislature Party leader Mukesh Agnihotri had raised in the state assembly the issue of proposed shifting of the ARTRAC HQ.
In reply to Agnihotri's question, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had assured the House that he would raise the matter with the prime minister and the defence minister. At that time, Thakur had told the House that the state government had not received any official information till then about shifting of the Army Training Command headquarters from Shimla.
He had, however, added that a delegation of several ex-servicemen had met him the previous day and expressed their concern over the proposal. Thakur said his government would raise the issue with the Centre and make every possible effort to ensure that the proposal does not materialise.
"The ARTRAC has its own historical and strategic significance and I will leave no stone unturned for withdrawal of the proposal of shifting the ARTRAC HQ from Shimla," he had said. "Our defence forces make their own internal strategies as per their requirement but individually I am against its shifting," the chief minister had added.
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