“People living near the borders are no less than soldiers,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday stating that if a soldier protects the country by wearing a uniform, the residents of border areas are serving the motherland in their own way. He said this after inaugurating 35 projects comprising 29 bridges and six roads constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) across seven States and Union Territories at a cost of ₹670 crore.
Eleven of them are in Jammu and Kashmir, nine in Ladakh, eight in Arunachal Pradesh, three in Uttarakhand, two in Sikkim and one each in Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. “These projects have been constructed under challenging weather conditions at the most inhospitable terrain,” it stated.
The event was organised on Dhak Bridge, a state-of-the-art 93-metre long Class 70R bridge over Dhak Nallah, which was inaugurated by Mr. Singh on the site. The remaining 34 projects, which were virtually inaugurated by Mr. Singh, include Ragini-Ustad-Pharkian Gali Road in Jammu and Kashmir. “It is a 38.25-km long CL-9 road, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Tangdhar and Keren sector, bolstering the operational readiness of the military,” the statement said.
“There was a time when border infrastructure development was not given much importance. Governments used to work with the mentality that the people living in the plains are the mainstream people. They were worried that the developments on the border might be used by the adversary. Due to this narrow mentality, development never reached the border areas,” Mr. Singh said. “This thinking has changed today. Under the leadership of PM Modi, our government is committed to the development of border areas, keeping in view the Nation’s security needs. We do not consider these areas as buffer zones. They are a part of our mainstream.”
Drawing attention to the increasing number of natural disasters in some border States and Union Territories including Uttarakhand, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim in recent years, Mr. Singh said that many experts believe that climate change is the reason behind these incidents. He called climate change as not just a weather-related phenomenon, but a very serious issue related to national security. The Minister added that the Defence Ministry is taking this very seriously and will seek cooperation from friendly countries in this regard.
Mr. Singh said they have ensured risk and hardship allowance for permanent civilian personnel of BRO at par with the armed forces. Ex-gratia compensation of casual laborers has been increased to ₹5 lakh from ₹2 lakh. Recently, approval was granted for the provision of insurance of ₹10 lakh for our casual paid labourers (CPLs), he noted.