Taking a leaf from the success script of China, which is investing heavily in infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border, India is also priming the pump for improving road connectivity in some of the most inhospitable areas of the northeast.
Over the next seven years, the government will spend Rs 12,123 crore, under the SARDP (Special Accelerated Road Development Project), to construct 7,603 km of road in the region. Bulk of these roads will be built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). Talking to reporters after chairing a board meeting of the BRO on Monday, MM Pallam Raju, minister of state for defence, urged the private sector to step forward and take up some challenging projects. Raju said, “The BRO is building roads in areas where private players are not willing to step in. The organisation has its kitty full with projects in the northeast, the Naxalism-ravaged areas and in Jammu and Kashmir. It is adding 25-30 per cent additional roads every year.”
The first phase of SARDP, expected to be completed by 2009, will entail building 492 km of road at Rs 1,122 crore. The remaining links will be in place by 2013 in the second phase. Raju said building infrastructure on the Indian side was a greater challenge than providing road connectivity inside Chinese territory because of the terrain. He explained, “They are creating infrastructure on a plateau, while we have to cut into mountains and battle inhospitable terrain. We are working towards providing modern equipment to the BRO.”
BRO director general Lieutenant General KS Rao told HT that the SARDP was one of the biggest projects to be undertaken by the BRO, reeling from a manpower crunch, with a crew of 33,948. But a September 2006 Cabinet decision allowed it to revert to its original strength. Defence secretary Shekhar Dutt said the BRO would be raise its force levels to 42,646 in three years.