Anna Hazare’s anti-graft crusade in New Delhi has spawned a movement in faraway Tawang. But the Arunachal Pradesh highlanders’ threat to storm Delhi will start if the Border Road Organization (BRO) fails to complete a strategic highway to the Chinese border within three months.
The threat by a conglomerate of panchayat bodies, students unions, NGOs and commercial organizations of northwestern Arunachal Pradesh underscored their cynicism about BRO. It, locals said, also exposed the hollowness of the Centre’s plans to take railway and air connectivity right up to the border with China.
“Even wounds heal over a period of time but the road condition here, particularly the Senge to Tawang stretch of the BCT Road keeps going from bad to worse. The BRO has taken close to a decade to improve the road but the results aren’t showing,” said local leader Nawang Sempa after a meeting of the conglomerate on Tuesday.
BCT Road expands to the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang Road, which is 320km from Balipara (Assam) to Tawang, headquarters of Tawang district and the prime reason behind China’s claim on some 90,000 sq km of Indian territory.
“We have set the BRO a three-month deadline from August 30 to make the road to Tawang all-weather usable. If it cannot, we will stop it from executing other road projects and take the issue to New Delhi just like Hazare did with the Jan Lokpal Bill. We have lined up people for a ‘Delhi chalo’ demonstration,” Sempa added.
Village chieftains said the lethargy in improving the road to Tawang was indicative of New Delhi’s seriousness in ensuring faster transport to the Chinese border during emergencies. Hotels and trade establishments have blamed the back-breaking road for an 80% drop in business this year, compounded by the suspension of helicopter services after the death of former chief minister Dorjee Khandu in April.
Senior BRO officials said they cannot “rush it” given the gradient factor and fragility of the eastern Himalayas at altitudes beyond 7,000ft. “Apart from widening and shortening the BCT Road to facilitate faster travel, we are also working on a short-cut that would reduce travel from Guwahati to Tawang by 93km,” a senior officer said.
The existing Guwahati-Tawang road via BCT Road is 528km. The shortcut called OKSRT or Orang-Kalaktang-Shergaon-Rupa-Tenga Road would entail a 435km drive from Guwahati to reach Tawang.