BRO faces challenge of inducting 40,000 workers in forward areas for key projects

Migrant workers are a key part of the BRO’s workforce involved in building strategic roads, along the country’s northern border with China, scattered across Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
A liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) delivery truck drives along India's Tezpur-Tawang highway which runs to the Chinese border, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.(REUTERS/ File photo)
A liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) delivery truck drives along India's Tezpur-Tawang highway which runs to the Chinese border, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.(REUTERS/ File photo)
Updated on Apr 28, 2020 09:44 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

One of the biggest challenges for the Border Roads Organisation is to arrange a large labour force to carry out construction of key roads and tunnels in far-flung areas as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) sweeps through the country, BRO chief Lieutenant General Harpal Singh told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

“The foremost challenge facing the BRO is to induct up to 40,000 workers into sites in forward areas after the recent opening of passes. We are talking about migrant workers who play an important role in our construction projects. We are looking at how to make this workforce available at the earliest keeping the challenges posed by the pandemic in mind,” Singh said.

The BRO’s peak working season extends from May to November. Migrant workers are a key part of the BRO’s workforce involved in building strategic roads, along the country’s northern border with China, scattered across Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

The BRO plans to complete all 61 strategic roads assigned to it along the China border by December 2022. The roads are being built to allow swifter mobilisation of troops and stores to forward areas.

Singh said the BRO was on course to meeting the December 2022 deadline for building the strategic roads but admitted that accomplishing targets was “extremely challenging” because of the restrictions imposed to slow down the spread of the disease.

“The challenges get compounded by the limited working season before the onset of snow. We also have to deal with the monsoon. However, we have institutionalised measures to work through the pandemic so that out plans are not affected,” Singh said.

The BRO employs a labour force of around 100,000 workers for its various construction projects. Of this, around 60,000 workers are employed locally and the rest of the requirement is met through hiring migrant labour. With less than a few hours of notice, thousands of migrant workers were caught in a countrywide lockdown enforced on March 24 and extended until May 3.

“One of the top priorities is to ensure that the virus does not infect the workforce and in case it does, we should be able to mitigate its spread,” the BRO chief said.

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the BRO completed some important projects this month. It opened the Rohtang Pass three weeks in advance, constructed the strategic Daporijo bridge over Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh and also built a permanent bridge on Ravi river connecting Kasowal enclave in Punjab to the rest of the country.

“It’s a challenge to keep lines of communication open and to continue work on strategically important projects in these times. We worked closely with the state governments and were able to mobilise labour and also move stores and equipment to open the Rohtang pass and build the Daporijo and Kasowal bridges,” Singh said. He said the BRO also cleared snow on 149 roads amounting to a length of 3,965 km.

Singh said one of the top priorities for the BRO was to speed up work on the Sela tunnel. The tunnel --- announced by the government in the 2018 Budget --- forms part of a strategic road project that will reduce travel time to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh by at least two hours.

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Saturday, January 29, 2022