Alarmed by China’s massive road infrastructure development along the Indian border, the ministry of defence is gearing up to compete with the eastern neighbour’s pace.
The ministry of defence has now decided to rope in public sector enterprises and subsequently private sector players for road construction because a majority of strategic road projects are several years behind schedule.
In a recently concluded meeting, the minister of state for defence, Jitender Singh, issued a directive to outsource the workload of Border Roads Organisation to other public sector units to meet the deadlines. After contracting the work to other PSUs, private sectors companies will also be roped in for road construction.
Road connectivity to border areas is now considered a force multiplier in wars, as they are critical for rapid troop movement and equipment mobilisation. So far, the BRO was the sole government body that was entrusted with the task of road construction in sensitive and non-sensitive border areas. But the tardy pace of work in several projects has forced the MoD to explore other options.
BRO is currently handling 471 key projects, worth about Rs37,000 crore. According to estimates, BRO has been able to complete projects worth only Rs3,000-3,500 crore annually. Going by these statistics, the defence ministry official believes that BRO will only be able to complete its backlog in the next 12-15 years.
BRO has failed to meet the deadlines in 73 strategic road projects on the Indo-China border, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security in June 2006. The deadline to complete the 3,500-km road build up was 2012. But so far only 527 km of roads have been built, and the deadline has been extended to 2016.
“Border Roads Organisation’s inability to meet the deadlines has forced the ministry to look for other options to match the massive road build-up by the Chinese on the border. To begin with, some projects are being awarded to public sector units, such as to National Project Construction Corporation, Engineering Projects India Limited, etc and later to private companies,” a defence ministry official told dna.
In the past 10 years, China has undertaken massive infrastructure projects, which are as good as full-fledged highways, to ensure faster connectivity to both civil and military users along the border. Sources claim that since 2003, China has constructed three major highways totalling about 6,000 km and 55 more roads along the Indian border.