1. Sikkim standoff: India efforts in building own roads near China border sputtering, here is why

Sikkim standoff: India efforts in building own roads near China border sputtering, here is why

The construction of roads, intended to ease the movement of troops and military hardware in the event of a border conflict has rather been slow and uneven.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: July 12, 2017 8:55 AM
border roads organisation, bro, himalayas, himayalan roads, india china conflict, roads on china border Sikkin standoff: India efforts in building own roads near China border sputtering (BRO web site)

China’s attempt to build a road through the Dokhlam Plateau triggered a standoff at the Bhutan trijunction in the Sikkim sector. The plateau is a disputed land that both China and Bhutan claim. The plateau overlooks Tibet’s Chumbi Valley, a Himalayan passageway into which the Nathu La pass opens, and which is of great strategic importance for India’s ‘chicken’s neck’ sector connecting the Northeast to the mainland. For many years now, China has been constructing roads and rail infrastructure close to the 4,000-km disputed land with India. India recently started a project to build a road to make it even on its side. The construction of roads, intended to ease the movement of troops and military hardware in the event of a border conflict has rather been slow and uneven. According to Indian Express report, in its audit of ‘Construction of Indo-China Border Roads by Border Roads Organisation’ submitted to Parliament in March 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India reported that as of end-March 2016, most roads were incomplete — and the completed ones were unfit to carry heavy equipment, including weaponry.

A total of 73 Indo-China Border Roads (ICBRs) are to be built out of which 61roads with a total length of 3,409.27 km were to be constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)the body that builds and maintains roads infrastructure in the border areas. During the Audit, the Auditor found out that 61 ICBRs should have been completed by 2012 but by March 2016 after spending 98pct of the estimated cost of Rs 4,644 crore, only 22 roads were completed. After a proper study of 24 ICBRs by the Auditor six of the completed roads ““were not fit for running of specialised vehicles or equipment.” The other 17 roads were of substandard quality even after spending Rs 1,927.28 crore on building it. The delay of the roads is because of the Reconnaissance, Survey and Trace Cut (RSTC) in many cases was not carried out not carried out properly as the gradient, soil classification, alignment of the road taken at the time of carrying out RSTC were at wide variance with the conditions encountered during the execution found the Auditor. RSTC is conducted before beginning work by BRO to determine the route alignment, prepare project documents and make project estimates. Another major reason, the Audit found, was the delay in submission and approval of the Annual Works Plan each year from 2011. With approval for funds and manpower projections awaited, works were begun on the basis of ad hoc estimates. Estimates and annual targets were revised after six months of execution of works, but the revised targets too could not be met in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16.

Another major reason, the Audit found, was the delay in submission and approval of the Annual Works Plan each year from 2011. With approval for funds and manpower projections awaited, works were begun on the basis of ad hoc estimates. Estimates and annual targets were revised after six months of execution of works, but the revised targets too could not be met in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16.

As per the report, the Auditor in its report said,”The works executed have been manipulated in papers with financial irregularities of several crores of rupees and that it was reflective of increasing corruption and lack of accountability in BRO.” He added, “The works executed have been manipulated in papers with financial irregularities of several crores of rupees and that it was reflective of increasing corruption and lack of accountability in BRO.” Another loss has been that of human lives. As work dragged on in higher altitudes and bad weather conditions, 21 General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) personnel and 48 Casual Paid Labourers (CPLs) were killed in work site and military transport accidents between April 2012 and March 2016. Prolonged deployment of personnel in difficult areas without any means of communication with their families, lack of adequate medical support, and non-availability of entertainment facilities had affected their physical and psychological health.

The Director General of Border Road told Indian Express that high altitude, reduction in the efficiency of vehicles equipment due to extreme atmospheric conditions, problems in funding, non-availability of vehicles, equipment and plants, and the closure of roads for six months are the reasons for the delay. The Auditor said,”“reasons are not convincing as these aspects of terrain and climatic conditions” were to be taken into consideration while preparing annual plans.

 

  1. P
    Paul Evitts
    Jul 13, 2017 at 1:05 am
    good work monkeys!
    Reply

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