Expressing concern over migration from border areas, the government has decided to form an expert group to study the problems faced by those living near the India-China border, including issues impacting livelihood and the lack of roads, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told The Indian Express.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event at the Mana post in Uttarakhand, Singh said, “We are concerned about the lack of roads on the China-India border, and we are trying to speed up progress on this front. We are going to form a study group of experts to look into the needs of people living near the China border. This group will study all problems related to infrastructure and livelihood.”
Addressing local residents, Singh said, “The people who live on the border should not migrate. They are a strategic asset for us. We have to give due importance to them. The day they migrate, it will not be good for border security.” The Home Minister visited the last village in the state near the China-India border as part of his four-day tour of Uttarakhand to meet local residents and jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
Singh also announced that the government would increase funds for the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) and encouraged the forces to win the trust of residents. According to officials, loss of livelihood and lack of infrastructure, in terms of roads and other civic amenities, have forced many residents in border areas to migrate to cities.
The Home Minister stressed that construction of roads was not only important from the security point of view but also to ease the life of local people. He said that the building of roads would be speeded up and all existing border outposts in the Mana axis connected to motorable roads.
Beyond Mana, ITBP has three posts before the China border, which is 54 km away. Jagaraon post, which is nearest to the border, is 12 km from the boundary, while the Rattakona post is at a distance of 18 km and Ghastoli 36. “There is no motorable road reaching any of these outposts. While road construction has begun, the progress is very slow,” said sources. The government had extended the deadline for completion of these roads recently to 2022.
According to officials, these are part of a total of 73 roads on the China-India border, which have been approved for construction. While 46 of these roads are being constructed by the Ministry of Defence, 27 are under the Home Ministry. A total of 27 roads have till now been completed by both the ministries with a majority of work being done by the Border Roads Organisation.
Sources said that apart from environmental clearance, the other factors that have delayed construction were land acquisition, terrain, natural calamities, and the weather, which provides a small window for activities.
“There is snow for six-seven months and then there are rains for three months. That leaves a window of around three months for road construction every year. That is why the progress is so slow,” said an ITBP officer.