Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools, said Napoleon Bonaparte once. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), it appears, has faith in the same philosophy. For them nothing is difficult, and the impossible might take some time. This commitment is well reflected in their motto — Shramena Sarvam Sadhyam (With hard work everything is possible). The construction work — be it roads, tunnels, bridges or airfields — that they undertake, both within and without the country, bears testimony to that fact.
The BRO has constructed approximately 48,000 km of roads, 400 major bridges of 36,000 metres length and 19 airfields in difficult and remote areas of the country. At present, the organisation is working on 699 roads (27,958 km), which include new construction work and single to double-lane upgradation. Add to this the maintenance of approximately 21,182 kms of road and seven airfields and clearing up of snow on 95 roads (2,961 km) every year to ensure connectivity of border regions to the rest of the country and you get a pen picture of the magnitude of its activities.
“The BRO was formed in the year 1960 to meet the strategic requirement of the armed forces with the aim to develop the road infrastructure network in the border regions of the country,” says Brigadier Sukhvir Sharma, deputy director general (personnel), BRO. The organisation has, over the years, “spread its wings and diversified into a large spectrum of construction and development works, bridging and tunnelling,” he elaborates.
This elite force is now regarded as a symbol of nation-building, and has become an inseparable component in maintaining the security and integrity of the nation. It has spread its wings beyond the boundaries of the nation. In order to “strengthen the bond of friendship with neighbouring countries, BRO has developed road infrastructure in Bhutan, Mayanmar and Afganistan,” Brig Sharma says.
Apart from constructing and maintaining roads in Bhutan, BRO had in 1968 built an international airport at Paro (in Bhutan) at an altitude of 2300 metres and carried out subsequent strengthening and extension of the facility in 2007-08. Other international projects have included construction of ATC buildings, aprons and other facilities alongside ‘rehabilitation’ of the runway in a record time of 10 months in Tajikistan.
A BRO official (engineering cadre) holds the designation of assistant executive engineer. He can rise up to the level of additional director general, the second highest post in the organisation. An officer of the Indian Army always holds the post of the director general. According to Pritam Singh, a senior private secretary from the administrative cadre, many private organisations seek to hire retired BRO officers.
“The multi-national companies engaged in constructing roads, bridges, tunnels etc are always on the lookout for BRO officers (read engineers) as they acquire vast experience in the course of their career.”
However, the work of BRO officials is not easy. When working on a project in a remote border area they may have to deal with “excessive hot/cold climate.
Difficulties could be faced while mobilising material or manpower, or dealing with non-availability of sufficient labour force, lack of civic amenities and communication facilities,” says R Rai, executive engineer, civil, who has done his ME on structures. But, as most of the officials say, the tougher the challenge, the sweeter the fruits of labour.
What's it about?
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was conceived and raised in the year 1960 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. This was done to fast track the development of road network and infrastructure in the northern and northeastern border areas of the country and to meet the strategic requirements of the Indian Armed forces. The executive arm of the BRO, the General Reserve Engineer Force, popularly known by its acronym GREF, is a dynamic force. The organisation, conceived primarily as a road building agency in the early ’60s, has over the years, spread its wings and diversified to undertake a large spectrum of construction and development works, comprising road projects, defence works, and bridging and tunnelling. The BRO has a rich and glorious past. With the humble beginning of just two projects in 1960, Vartak in east and Beacon in the north, today, there are 17 projects/ special task forces spread across the length and breadth of the country
7 am to 8 am: Ensure deployment of resources as per work plan
8 am to 4 pm: Inspect construction work and ensure it’s as per specifications
4 pm to 5 pm: Take stock of the progress during the day
5 pm to 6 pm: Ensure daily works documents have been updated
6.30 pm onwards: Plan work and deployment of resources for the next day
The salary is at par with that of any Central government employee, varying in keeping with the designation. The starting salary for the officer in pay band 4 is in the range of Rs 15600 to 39100 a month with grade pay of Rs 5400 for assistant executive engineer that rises to Rs 67000 to Rs 79000 a month (in case of an additional director general, Border Roads). The DA is applicable as per latest government orders. BRO officers are also entitled to free ration, outfit allowance, subsidised accom-modation, free railway warrant from place of duty to hometown
. Engineering knowledge and analytical skills
. Officers should possess leadership qualities, set personal examples to lead their men
. Should be honest with a high degree of integrity
. Be physically and mentally robust
. Should be capable of shouldering additional responsibilities
How do i get there?
Take physics, chemistry, maths in plus-two. Take the engineering entrance exam conducted by Central and state boards. Earn a BE degree upon successful entry to an engineering course.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts an All-India Engineering Exam for candidates (engineering degree minimum qualification) and based on their merit, engineer officers are picked for BRO. For administrative officers, selection is made by UPSC based on the interview. They should be graduates from a recognised university in arts or science stream
Institutes & urls
There is no specific institute which can train/coach you for joining the BRO.
Selection is done by UPSC based on merit in the All India Engineering Exams for engineering stream officers and on the basis of interviews for administrative officers with degree qualification from a recognised university
Pros & cons
Being part of a disciplined force, officers and men learn service ethos and develop leadership qualities
In course of their employment the officers gain the experience and confidence to handle prestigious projects
You get to work and live in various parts of the country
Incentives given in the 6th Pay Commission have taken care of certain anomalies and service conditions have improved over the period
The officers and men have to stay away from their families
Elite organisation, unique experience
A senior talks about the opportunities and challenges in the organisation
Is it mandatory to be an engineer to get entry into the BRO?
BRO constitutes officers from the engineering as well as administrative background. It is essential for BRES (engineering cadre) to have an engineering degree from a recognised university for entry into BRO. For administrative officers, a degree in arts or science stream, from a recognised university, is essential. Similarly, for medical officers, MBBS degree from a recognised college is mandatory.
Is there a need for more BRO officers in the country?
There are adequate numbers. However, deficiencies are made up for by UPSC.
Where can a BRO officer find re-employment? (Which are the places/organisations/sectors that might employ a retired officer?)
BRO officers during their service in this elite organisation gain a lot of experience, which helps them after post-retirement and opens avenues to other government or private construction agencies dealing with roads, bridges, tunnels and airfield works.
What are the challenges facing officers today? What is the future of BRO as a career choice among young men?
The challenges faced by BRO engineers are as under:
. To orient and update themselves on the latest technological advancements
. Implement planned work in extreme border areas — a tough job
. To maintain speed of work while ensuring quality
. To maximise efficiency of men who work under them and look after their welfare aspects.
With the planned cadre review and the promotional aspects improving, BRO will definitely find a priority among young engineers in search of challenges.
What role do officers of Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army play in the BRO?
The BRO is one of the four pillars of the Corps of Engineers (Indian Army). The officers from the Corps of Engineers are posted to BRO on extra-regimental- employment (ERE) duties and work shoulder to shoulder with BRES officers towards one common goal: That of the development of the country.
Brigadier Sukhvir Sharma Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh