The defence ministry has asked the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to hire helicopters from private agencies to expedite the construction of strategic roads in Arunachal Pradesh to counter China’s superior road infrastructure across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
China has rapidly extended its railway and highway connections to border areas, giving it an advantage in deploying forces right up to the border passes. In comparison, the construction of roads in border states in India has been delayed.
The delays, according to a defence official, is because of the extremely low capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to airlift machines, material and manpower to high-altitude areas.
“Against the BRO’s requirement of 3,500 tonnes in Arunachal Pradesh last year, the IAF could actually airlift 400 tonnes only. As a result, construction of border roads in Arunachal Pradesh will go beyond 2013,” he said.
Some private helicopter companies have already shown interest in the proposal.
BRO director-general Lt General MC Badhani said the Pawan Hans had submitted an initial proposal to partially meet the BRO’s helicopter requirements in the Northeast.
“But their pilots are not trained for hanging payloads that need to be airdropped in inaccessible places lacking landing sites,” he said.
Over 75 per cent of the BRO’s road construction projects are in high-altitude areas.
The choppers – the go-ahead for hiring these from private agencies was given to the BRO by Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju -- could be used in other Himalayan states, bordering China and Pakistan, to provide logistical support to the armed forces.