Strategic development of India’s eastern region long overdue
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed the Lok Sabha on 26 July 2016, that altogether 73 roads of strategic importance to India on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control between India and China will be constructed by 2020. Out of these 73 roads, 46 are being constructed by Ministry of Defence and 27 by Ministry of Home Affairs. So far, out of the 73 roads, 24 have been completed. Although according to the plan, these roads were expected to be completed by 2012-13 but the very high altitude, steep mountainous, rugged and difficult terrain proved to be major deterrents to maintain the intended schedule of the long overdue strategic infrastructural development of the Indian side of the Sino-Indian border region.
Recently, 24th Director General Border Roads (DGBR) Lt Gen Suresh Sharma visited Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh to review the progress of the various tasks undertaken. In Arunachal Pradesh, he inspected important strategic roads in Tawang sector and in Subansari valley. He then proceeded to Genensiniak, where the launching of a Bailey Bridge over the Subansari river had proved to be extremely difficult. Incidentally, this is the first time a single span Bailey Bridge has been launched. He informed all concerned that the Ministry of Defence is considering higher budget and special powers for the construction of these strategic roads as the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is working under extremely difficult constraints including terrain and weather.
The DGBR has been traveling extensively by roads to see the effect of the efforts and energy of his organization and also in maintaining the focus on fast track completion of strategic roads and planning for new roads.
In Sikkim Lt Gen Sharma reviewed the progress made by Project Swastik on the National Highway to Nathu La and Mangan. He spent two days on roads along the International Border on Lachung and Lachen axis and visited Donkya La Pass at an altitude of about 18000 feet which was recently connected by Project Swastik. This project, linking both Lachung and Lachen axis was completed despite adverse terrain and harsh climatic conditions. Overseeing the progress of the tunnel construction, the DGBR expressed confidence about its timely completion.
He has also emphasized on the installation of higher road safety measures all along highways in the State, to ensure zero accidents. He also interacted with construction workers and ground level executives and explained BRO’s current priorities to them. Lt Gen Sharma also met the area Commander of the Army formation to discuss their priority and feedback on quality and productivity.
The BRO develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighboring countries. It is staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Military Police and army personnel on extra-regimental employment. Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the BRO. Currently, the organization maintains operations in twenty-one states, one UT (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
The BRO operates and maintains over 32,885 kilometers of roads and about 12,200 meters of permanent bridges in the country. Presently, BRO is also involved in the very challenging construction of a unique horseshoe-shaped tunnel at the Rohtang pass which is estimated to be ready by 2019.
For the Western world, mountains mean 8000 meters, like the Alps. After Independence, Indian Army redefined mountain warfare and its engineers redefined road, bridge and tunnel construction in the lofty Northern and Eastern Himalayas, where Indian Army’s troops are deployed at altitudes as high as 22,000 feet. The BRO’s world class construction has been viewed with wonder by many of its foreign equivalents.