The government plans to offer Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh a special package to ensure that people living in high-altitude border areas do not migrate to lower reaches, amid fears in the security establishment that thinning of population might prompt Chinese incursions.
Mindful of the security threat, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is giving shape to a Rs 550crore package.
“This is a critical issue for national security. It is imperative that we contain the thinning of population in the remote border areas along Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh,” a top source familiar with the development told Hindustan Times.
“A very inhospitable terrain in these areas has led to the absence of basic infrastructural facilities, leading to mass migration of people to lower reaches. Such facilities are much more developed on the Chinese side. China has taken over many areas vacated by our people where the border is not clearly demarcated,” the source said.
Most roads on the Indian side are 50-70 km from the LAC (Line of Actual Control) as against China’s roads which almost go up to the LAC. The LAC is the effective border between India and China.
At present, none of the centrally sponsored plans is being implemented in these areas as the population density is very low. Also, the border area development programme, which allots about Rs 1 crore for a single block, is quite meagre for developmental activities in such hostile terrain.
A year ago, the then Arunachal Pradesh governor Lt Gen (retd) Nirbhay Sharma wrote to the PMO, warning of imminent danger of ‘thinning’ border areas in the state amid continuing migration.
“The issue needs to be addressed urgently or else apart from a constant threat of ingress, gradual assimilation of our area by China is on the cards, on the lines already witnessed in north Myanmar,” Sharma said in the letter. Top government sources told HT that the Ladakh Hill Development Autonomous Council pointed out the problem as well.
Of the 17 districts in Arunachal Pradesh, 13 in higher reaches share international borders with China, Myanmar and Bhutan. About 270,000 people, 20% of the state’s population, reside in about 1,600 villages of 41 border blocks.