Monday, Feb 19, 2018 | Last Update : 09:18 AM IST
From 2012 to 2016, 69 personnel lost their lives.
New Delhi: It is another war in the treacherous and merciless terrain along the Indo-China border where the government is trying to build roads in a late effort to match China’s excellent infrastructure. But now, the adversary here is mother nature.
In a four-year period from 2012 to 2016, 69 personnel engaged in building roads have lost their lives — over 17 men a year on average. A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) lists 21 deaths of officers and men from the General Reserve Engineers Force (GREF) and 48 casual labourers deployed in Indo-China Border Road (ICBR) works from April 2012 to March 2016.
These deaths in military-transport and work site accidents “clearly show the tough and hazardous working conditions of the GREF personnel”.
These strategically important roads, mainly built for the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police besides civilians, are built in adverse topographic and climatic conditions and under sensitive security environments.
From 2012 to 2016, the road building targets could not be achieved and the shortfall in achievement ranged to about 79 per cent.
To resolve legal roadblocks like land acquisition, forest and wildlife clearance, and so on to build these strategic roads, the government constituted empowered committees. It has also allowed the divertion of forest land to build roads entrusted to BRO in areas falling within 100 km in aerial distance from the Indo-China border.
While China has built roads that almost touch the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the effective Indo-China border, most Indian road-heads peter off at least about 50 km to 70 km from the LAC.
Of the 61 ICBRs that were planned to be completed by 2012, only 15 could be completed within the time frame. Out of the remaining 46 roads, only seven could be completed by 2016. Thus only 22 roads or 36 per cent have been completed despite incurring an expenditure of Rs 4,536 crore against the estimated cost of Rs 4,644 crore for all the 61 ICBRs.
Among other grounds for the delay and non-achievement of targets like limited equipment, the BRO lists the extreme high altitude area and its associated problems, like rarified atmospheric conditions, hard rock, sudden spells of inclement weather, limited working season with road closure often for six months, and so on.
Of the 61 ICBRs, 27 are in Arunachal Pradesh (1,788 km), five in Himachal Pradesh (117 km), 12 in Jammu and Kashmir (1,093 km), three in Sikkim (56 km) and 14 in Uttarakhand (355 km).
In the past, lack of road connectivity in the Indo-China border had been part of a conscious government policy of not developing the borders with China so as to create a buffer area, but a new policy was finalised in 2007 when it was decided by the government to construct 73 strategically important roads to facilitate the brisk movement of troops in case of any aggression along the Northern and Eastern frontiers. Of these 73, 61 roads were to be completed by 2012.