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Border roads are in pathetic condition - Deccan Herald
Border roads are in pathetic condition
March 16, 2017, DHNS
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The latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report provides worrying insights into the shoddy state of India's road connectivity in its border areas. In 2007, the Cabinet Committee on Security decided on construction of 73 strategic roads along India's borders. These were to be completed by 2012. However, as of 2016, only 22 roads have been constructed, the CAG report says. And although 98% of the original outlay has been utilised, just 36% of the planned roads are complete. Importantly, completed roads are of low quality, the report observes, drawing attention to their improper gradient, undulating surface and improper turning radius. Most of the roads are unfit for transport of weaponry, the report points out. This is of major concern. Border road connectivity is essential for transport of troops and weaponry to the borders and is therefore a vital part of a country's defence preparedness. For decades, India's approach to management of its border with China was defensive. It deliberately neglected road building.

Existing roads fell into disuse and new ones were not built. The logic behind this approach was that poor overland connectivity in border areas would slow down the Chinese military's advance into Indian territory in the event of war. However, Indian strategic thinking has changed and since the mid-2000s, the need for better overland connectivity is being stressed, not only to facilitate transport of troops to the border but also to better integrate people living in border areas with the rest of the country. Overland connectivity is also needed to improve India's trade with its neighbours.It is unfortunate that India continues to lag on the construction of border roads even as its neighbours are racing ahead. Take China, for instance.

At Tawang, it has constructed a four-lane highway running up to the Mc Mahon Line and it takes trucks 45 minutes to cover the 37 km distance. India, in contrast has a single pot-holed road between Tawang and Bum La, the last border post on the Indian side. It takes trucks three hours to cover the 30 km distance. Its superior border connectivity has freed China of the need to deploy a large number of soldiers in the hostile terrain of the Himalayas.Sixty one of the 73 strategic roads were entrusted to the Border Roads Organisation for construction. But the BRO has not delivered, perhaps because of its serious shortage of personnel. Besides, it is overburdened. The government must relieve it of the responsibility of constructing non-border strategic roads so that it can focus its expertise and energies on the border roads. India cannot afford to drag its feet on construction of its border road infrastructure any longer.