New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence is set to complete the first phase of the project to build a network of roads along the China border, for brisk movement of troops and weapons, 20 years after it was first envisaged, ThePrint has learnt.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had in 1999 approved the construction of these roads by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under the Ministry of Defence. The project was to be completed between 2003 and 2006 but the deadline was then extended to 2012 — it too was missed.
According to a source in the ministry, the government had in the first phase planned to construct 61 roads along the India-China border totalling 3,346 km. Of these, 36 roads (1,260 km) have been constructed, while links have been established in 20 others (2,035 km) which are being tested. Work on the remaining five roads has begun and will be completed soon.
“This is part of defence preparedness. India is getting there to China,” the source said. “The focus of the government is increased connectivity, smooth patrolling on these roads, which will lead to securing the areas better,” the source added.
“Now, for phase 1, only 51 km is left to be completed,” the source added. “It is a big achievement considering that the project had been pending for years.”
Some of the finished roads include the stretch connecting Sasoma and Saseria in the Ladakh sector, the Ghatibagarh-Lipulekh road in the Mansarovar sector, Gunji-Kutti-Jollingkong road in the Uttarakhand sector, Dokala in the Sikkim sector, the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road in the Tawang sector and the Damping-Yangtze in the Arunachal sector.
Project cost over Rs 3,000 crore
According to a source in Ministry of Home Affairs, the government has spent Rs 3,728 crore on the project. This includes Rs 781 crore spent in 2016-17, Rs 745 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 890 crore in 2018-19. The proposed cost for the current fiscal is Rs 1,312 crore.
“The estimated cost to complete the first phase was Rs 4,700 crore, which has been done well within the budget,” the source said. “Once phase 1 is completed, details of the next phase will be discussed with all the stakeholders.”
The government is yet to work out how many phases and how many roads need to be built.
A counter to China
The roads are meant to act as a counter to Chinese infrastructure in its border areas.
It was after China began constructing roads and tracks along India’s northern and eastern frontiers in 1997 that New Delhi felt a need to respond.
“India then constituted a China Study Group (CSG) to study the requirement of road communication along the China border for fast and smooth movement of troops,” the defence ministry source said.
And the end of the study, the CSG identified 73 important locations along the China border for Indo-China Border Roads (ICBRs) to be built.
Of the 36 roads that have been constructed, the CSG has completed seven roads (268 km), the defence ministry has built 20 roads (818 km) and the home ministry has worked on nine roads (174 km).
Among the 20 roads that are soon to be completed, five roads were worked on by CSG (762 km), 12 roads (1,105 Km) by the defence ministry and three roads (168 km) by the home ministry.