Govt hikes funds for border road development projects
The Union government has increased funding for border road development projects and raised the allocation for maintenance of border roads -- a development that follows a military standoff with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Eastern Ladakh sector -- as it attempts to boost infrastructure in frontier areas.
Funding for road development projects in border areas has been raised from Rs 340 crore to Rs 440 core in the current financial year. The budget for maintenance of border roads has gone up from Rs 120 crore to Rs 220 crore. This is the second revision of funding for border roads in the fiscal year; in June, the ministry of road transport and highways raised the allocation for border road maintenance by four times to Rs 120 crore.
The government has been trying to reinforce infrastructure in border areas. The Chinese and Indian armies have been embroiled in a tense standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh sector, where a brutal brawl in the Galwan Valley on June 15 led to the deaths of 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers.
According to documents reviewed by HT, the additional allocation of Rs 100 crore for “general works” to the Border Roads Organization (BRO) is for projects under the Chardham Pariyojana, aimed at improving connectivity o the four pilgrimage centres of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttrakhand.
Works for the Chardham Pariyojna are being implemented by three executing agencies of the transport ministry -- the Uttarakhand State Public Works Department, BRO, and the National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
BRO functions under the defence ministry and is tasked with construction and maintenance of roads in the border areas, classified as General Staff (GS) roads in line with defence requirements. GS roads are developed and maintained through funds provided by the Border Roads Development Board through the ministry of road transport and highways.
Strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney said, “This raises two issues—one, given that the construction of any border road takes several years because of the treacherous terrain, why are authorities waking up to the need for increased funding in the midst of China’s aggression? And second, even with the increased allocations, the budget seems inadequate to build the kind of border infrastructure India needs to defend itself.”
In June, the transport ministry had allocated Rs 1,691 crore for highway development by BRO in Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand for 2020-21. Of this, Rs 1,351 crore was sanctioned for road works in J&K and Rs 340 crore for Uttarakhand. The transport ministry also allocated an additional Rs 71 crore for highway works in Ladakh, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu.
This time around, the ministry has also increased the allocation for roads in the Northeast under its road development programme from Rs 290 crore to Rs 390 crore.
The allocation to the regional offices of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has increased from Rs 140 crore and Rs 150 crore, respectively to Rs 190 crore and Rs 200 crore, taking the total funding for incurring expenditure on the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East (SARDP-NE) in the financial year 2020-21 to Rs 390 crore.