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Raw deal for men linking frontiers

The Border Roads Organisation workers move a case to get CI allowance sanctioned for GREF personnel to equate them with armymen.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2007 20:17 IST

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel have been made to feel like children of a lesser god and it has affected their morale.
Soldiers serving in the counter-insurgency (CI) grid in the northeast and J&K are entitled to a special allowance ranging from Rs 1,600 to
Rs 3,900.

But BRO men slogging it out in similar, if not worse, conditions have been left high and dry. The BRO, a part of the defence
ministry, is composed of army personnel on deputation and the GREF (General Reserve Engineer Force) cadre.

It has moved a case to get CI allowance sanctioned for GREF personnel to equate them with armymen. But instead of getting a favourable
response, the BRO faces a new dilemma. Audit objections have been raised over CI allowance being offered to army deputationists in BRO.
A move has been initiated to recover money from them, fanning resentment.

In Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, unarmed BRO men are responsible for roads that meander through the heart of territory controlled by
insurgents. Brigadier BD Pandey, who heads Project Sewak, responsible for over 1,850 kms of roads in Manipur and Nagaland, told
HT, "Insurgents kidnap and beat up our men regularly. The environment is as hostile as it can get. Our detachments have no security." The
BRO has about 10,000 men serving in the CI grid.

"The threat to them is enormous. The army at least carries weapons," said Muralidhar Pandey, director, Border Roads Development Board
(BRDB), adding that the allowance would pep up a force that suffers over 400 casualties annually. |

Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju, who heads the BRDB, told HT that the matter would be taken up with the Sixth Pay Commission and hopefully resolved. After an extensive tour of the northeast, Raju said the BRO was performing commendably against severe odds. SS Porwal, head, Project Vartak, which spans across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, said the BRO was executing works in high-risk areas where private players would never venture. Insurgency is a formidable challenge for projects like Pushpak in Aizawl and Dantak in Simtoka.

By putting their lives on the line, BRO men build roads that facilitate army operations. In the last two years, they have won 14 Shaurya Chakras - a measure of guts in trying circumstances. Manipur chief secretary Jarnail Singh said security forces were unable to carry out operations against insurgents in a 400 sq km-patch in east Manipur as the area was inaccessible.

"They strike and escape to Myanmar," he said, urging BRO to take up a project there. The BRO runs six projects in the volatile northeast and three in J&K.