Border Infrastructure Management Authority

Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA) plan is reportedly being prepared for integrated infrastructure development considering that the people living along the LAC be considered as strategic assets

June 5, 2022 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB, Border Roads Organisation, Wikipedia / Sanu N, Planet Labs
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army

 

DEFENCE MINISTER RAJNATH SINGH AT THE E-LAUNCH OF 12 ROADS BUILT BY BORDER ROADS ORGANISATION (BRO), IN THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN BORDER AREAS, IN JUNE 2021.

According to reports of May 2, 2022, the government is planning to set up a Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA) for planned and comprehensive development of infrastructure including roads, rail, water, power, and communications network. Quoting unnamed sources, the report says that one of the aims is to enhance the ongoing development of specific areas by increasing public-private partnership (PPP) and allocation of funds for completing works.

At the same time, the road head connectivity to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) remains inadequate compared to China's border infrastructure. This is more so in the case of Arunachal Pradesh. The plan is reportedly being prepared for integrated infrastructure development considering that the people living along the LAC be considered as strategic assets.

The government is planning to set up a Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA) for planned and comprehensive development of infrastructure including roads, rail, water, power, and communications network

Earlier the government had launched the flagship Vibrant Border Village (VVP) programme to upgrade the facilities in villages along the India-China, India-Pakistan, India-Nepal and India-Bangladesh borders. The top comment of a foreigner on this news report reads: "India never builds to improve peoples' lives, only for eye on China and propaganda. China just builds without talking. India only talks but doesn't build".

THE COMPLETION OF BALANCE STRATEGIC ROADS ARE CRITICAL FOR THE ARMY

The above comment is adverse but should be seen in backdrop of the article "Why is India in Denial as China Pushes into Arunachal?" by China expert Professor Srikanth Kondapalli published on November 23, 2021. Kondapalli wrote that despite interest differentials between the MEA spokesman's position and that of the Chief of Defence Staff comments on territorial dispute resolution and the LAC, respectively, there has been no response from the government on China establishing a "well-off society village" at Longju in Arunachal Pradesh.

By late 2020, China announced that over 600 'well-off society village' were already constructed, one-third of which are close to the LAC, with at least one Communist Party cadre, surveillance systems, telecommunications, border defence duties and other facilities for border domination

Kondapalli also wrote that by late 2020, China announced that over 600 "well-off society village" were "already constructed", one-third of which are close to the LAC, with at least one Communist Party cadre, surveillance systems, telecommunications, border defence duties and other facilities for border domination. This was followed by China's Land Border Law passed on October 23, 2021, adding fuel to the fire.

CHINA HAS RESORTED TO CONSTRUCTION IN BORDER AREA IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH

India is to implement the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) through State/UT administrations in habitations located within 0-10 km from the first habitation at international border in 460 border blocks of 117 border districts in 16 States and 2 UTs viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir (UT) and Ladakh (UT). This means plenty of funds to States/UTs but what about the speed of BADP and VVP execution compared to China?

The proposed Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA) will be functioning under the MHA and is apparently another exercise to expand the bureaucratic empire

The chaos in our border management needs to be viewed in backdrop of the following:

  • All international borders should be under one Union Ministry but is divided between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); consequently the concept of 'One Border, One Force' is dumped because of power-playand smuggling activates.
  • The MHA has been rooting for merging the Assam Rifles (AR) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and assume control of the India-Myanmar border to commandeer the narcotics smuggling through our eastern borders.
  • Despite the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh during 2020, the ITBP deployed in the area has still not been placed under command of the Army.
  • BADP is for habitations located within 0-10 km from the first habitation at international border. But what about areas like Tuting where China built a road 1.25 km across the LAC in 2017. The closest village 'Bishing' from the LAC is 'one-day' walk from the LAC and does not have a connecting road because of the "norm" of not providing roads for villages less than 100 population under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY).
  • Compare our BADP and VVP schemes to China establishing new villages bang on the border, with some inside India, Nepal and Bhutan. China's dual-use 'militarised villages' also have electronic warfare systems and air defence stations.
NEPAL-INDIA BORDER GATE SONAULI
  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is under the MoD but is also tasked for road construction by the MHA; often defying a holistic approach.
  • The road joining Western and Eastern Arunachal Pradesh did not cater for roads leading up from the south for Army's mobilisation.
  • Roads built by BRO and handed over to CPWD/concerned States after 2-3 years are in dilapidated state.
  • Some border roads are single lane with no spots for crossing vehicles; resulting in one-way traffic that adversely affects quick mobilisation.
  • A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to Parliament on April 6, 2022, revealed that the CCS approved 1300 km long Indo-Nepal border road, whose construction commenced in 2010, is only 29 percent complete after overshooting the 2016 deadline by six years and spending over 3,700 crore. Besides, of the 363 BoPs, 125 are away at a distance of more than 20 km with no provision to connect them.CAG also pointed out that at many places the alignment is "outside the jurisdiction" of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) guarding our border with Nepal.
  • CAG has periodically pointed out BRO roads overshooting the deadlines, exorbitant expenditure over planned allotment also because of changing alignments and badly constructed stretches unsuitable for move of military equipment. Such CAG observations also pertain to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi (DS-DBO) road.
  • On September 19, 2021, media reported that the pilot project preceding the construction of over 40 integrated Border Outposts (BOPs) in Eastern Ladakh announced in 2015 has been called a failure by the ITBP after spending over 20 crore by the National Projects Construction Corporation (NPCC). These BOPs were supposed to havefreeze-proof toilets, running water and temperature maintained above 22 degree Celsius at all times. The MHA and the Ministry of Jal Shakti are blaming each other while MHA has stopped part payment to the NPCC and is thinking of dumping the project altogether.

The proposed Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA) will be functioning under the MHA. However, given the mismanagement by the MHA, some examples of which are given above, the BIMA is apparently another exercise to expand the bureaucratic empire with little improvement at the ground level.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.