Highways ministry ups border roads upkeep funds by 4 times

In a significant ramp up in the context of the ongoing border standoff with China, the road transport and highways ministry has increased four-fold the allocation for maintenance of border roads managed by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) from Rs 30 crore to Rs 120 crore for this year.

The decision reflects the strategic imperatives that have emerged in the wake of the military face off and the government’s renewed focus on stepping up the infrastructure in border areas so as to allow swifter and smoother movement of troops and military supply chains.

The ministry has also significantly increased the ceiling for sanction of new national highway works in border states. In Ladakh, for example, works up to Rs 589 crore can be approved against the earlier cap of Rs 72 crore. This comes at a time when the government is accelerating the development works in the newly created Union Territory and recent development of critical border roads is seen as an important trigger for Chinese aggression along the line of actual control.

While BRO comes under the defence ministry, the highways ministry allocates fund from its budget to BRO for stretches which have been entrusted to them.

Improving border roads has gained momentum in recent years. Recently, NHIDCL, which is responsible for development national highways in border and hill states had mobilised its workforce after a slump due to Covid by offering to double wages and even  increased them up to 170% in some categories for road construction activities in high altitude regions, many of which are in border areas adjoining China.

The extent of Chinese mobilisation along the LAC and its intrusions at certain points saw the government further scaling up the already accelerated pace of infrastructure development near the borders.

Sources said a large share of the increased maintenance fund allocated by the road ministry for the Border Road Development Board (BRDB) under defence ministry will be used for better upkeep of strategic roads in the border areas. The allocation was revised in less than three months after the first allocation for the current fiscal year was made in April first week. The decision, amid indications that the stand off with China may well grind on into the winter, indicates a resolve to vigorously counter the Chinese tactics of suddenly intruding into the Indian side of LAC.

In another circular issued on June 27, the ministry has also hiked the sanction ceiling for border roads in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand by Rs 4,031 crore. While new projects or works with total expenditure of Rs 1,351 crore can be taken up in Jammu and Kashmir, Rs 340 crore can be     spent in     Uttarakhand.