While infrastructure development along the China border was the most important issue discussed in the bi-annual Army Commanders’ Conference, the issue of shortage of funds leading to delay in strategic road projects was also deliberated upon at the mega military event.
The matter pertained to the dearth of funds in the hands of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which in turn, is leading to delays in completing strategic roads along the frontier with China, officials said today.
As a response to the money crunch, funds meant for General Staff (GS) roads are being diverted for the higher priority India-China Border Roads (ICBRs). This is likely to affect the 200-odd GS roads that ensure inter-valley and inter-sector movement of troops and equipment along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
On the other hand, the ICBRs are meant for much larger mobilisation efforts.
The inadequate budget for the strategic roads and infrastructure development along the northern borders has also been highlighted by the Indian Army’s Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand, who informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that the allocation for these tasks is falling short by about Rs 902 crore.
Speaking about the event, Lt Gen A K Sharma, the army’s Director General Staff Duties, said: “Senior commanders deliberated at length on the prevailing situations along the northern borders, the capacity building endeavours including infrastructural development and measures to provide them requisite impetus.”
Earlier this week, the BRO, which a primary construction agency for border infrastructure development, gave a presentation at the conference, providing an update on the work it has been carrying out along the northern borders, the funds it has received and how it is falling short of their requirement. “Only 60 per cent of demands for funds for all roads under the BRO are being met. This is not enough. Due to the shortage, all road projects, including of the 61 ICBRs and GS roads, will be delayed and cannot be completed on time,” said officials privy to the matter.
There are 73 planned ICBRs whose construction began in 1999. The BRO has been tasked to construct 61 of them, out of which 28 have been completed and the remaining 33 are expected to be completed by 2022.
The matter was also raised in one of the reports tabled in Parliament by the Standing Committee on Defence. The Director General Border Roads had flagged off concerns over the completion of road projects saying: “This year, we have made a slight policy change because these have a fixed timeline of 2022. Dedicated fund is being allocated for east ICBR out of my budget. While I understand this may affect the other GS roads to some extent, this is a criticality for the nation and we have taken this. So, we will be allocating the budget ICBR-wise first.”