Congress leader and Member of Parliament Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, opposing the proposed shifting of Army Training Command (ARTRAC) Headquarters, sought for retaining it in Shimla.
Seeking Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s intervention, Sharma in a written communiqué on Thursday drew the attention to the proposed shifting of the ARTRAC Headquarters (HQ) from Shimla to Meerut, stating that it was being done without any apparent need or justification.
He said that he was seeking to retain ARTRAC in Shimla in view of the popular demand and opinion of senior Army officers including retired Service Chiefs and Strategic Experts.
“It needs mention, that Shimla has been a strategic location of the Indian Army for almost 150 years and was the HQ of the then Indian Army during the British period from 1864 to 1939, which included two World Wars in which British Indian Army fought,” he said.
After India’s independence, the Headquarters of the Western Command was located in Shimla during the Indo-Pak Wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971, as well as the India-China War of 1962 and that the Western Command was shifted to Chandi Mandir only in 1985, he added.
The Headquarters of the Army Training was raised at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh in 1991, however, the leadership of the Army considering Shimla as the best location for this prestigious ARTRAC and also to make the best use of the available Western Command infrastructure shifted the same to Shimla in March 1993.
“It was categorically stated by all previous Army Commanders that Shimla was selected as the best suitable place for HQ ARTRAC given its unique charter different from all regional Commands where officers and soldiers are able to conceptualize the concepts and doctrines in a conducive environment,” he said, adding that ever since its establishment in Shimla, the Ministry of Defence has, over a period of 27 years, allocated large amount of funds and resources for the ARTRAC.
“The logic being extended that there is shortage of accommodation at Shimla post merger of Directorate General Military Training (DGMT) and ARTRAC, lacks substance as adequate infrastructure is available in the adjoining Jutogh Cantonment,” he asserted.
Air connectivity of Shimla to Chandigarh is also 120 km, he said, adding that Shimla has a further advantage of having its own tabletop airport and a four-lane highway.
Meerut as the new headquarter does not have any infrastructure advantage and has no airport but is entirely dependent on the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi which is already under stress due to heavy passenger and cargo traffic, he claimed.
He urged for the cancellation of the proposal to shift HQ ARTRAC and to save the unnecessary financial burden, the investments made in the HQ ARTRAC since 1993, to protect the loss of employment for the local people and loss to the state’s economy.
“There will be huge financial implications for relocation of these big institutions from Shimla to Meerut, which will have negative effect on exchequer amounting to hundreds of crores and will not serve any purpose. Also, shifting of such a big Army Institution would adversely affect the economy of Shimla and the state and loss of employment for the local people,” said Sharma, adding that Shimla has been a summer capital of the country and the state will lose its pride if the Command Headquarters is shifted out of the state.