With the construction of strategic roads in Arunachal Pradesh and other Indian areas bordering China running into delays, the defence ministry has suggested that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) could hire helicopters to expedite the work, an official said Thursday.
Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju gave the suggestion during a meeting with the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) in Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar Wednesday evening.
"The minister had stressed the need to build infrastructure right up to the border areas. He has asked the BRO to explore the possibility of hiring helicopters from outside agencies to facilitate road construction in border areas," a defence official said.
Raju’s suggestion came after BRO’s Director General (DG) Lt. Gen. M.C. Badhani said the Indian Air Force’s "extremely low" airlift capability would delay the construction of most of the border roads in Arunachal Pradesh beyond 2013.
"Against the BRO’s need for 3,500 tonnes last year, only 400 tonnes was actually airlifted. The BRO DG informed that Pawan Hans has submitted an initial proposal to partially meet its helicopter requirements in the northeast, but their pilots were not trained for hanging payloads that need to be airdropped in inaccessible places lacking landing sites.
“Over 75 percent of BRO’s road construction projects are in high altitude areas,” he added.
The BRO is presently building 2,764 km of the total 5,061 km road length in Arunachal Pradesh alone. The BRO is undertaking projects in the treacherous terrains and harsh weather of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir and in northeastern states bordering China.
Another hindrance in the revamping of road infrastructure along the India-China border is the shortage of manpower in the BRO.
The total sanctioned posts in BRO is 42,646. However, only 34,966 posts are currently filled. In the officer cadre, there are 1,540 vacancies but the organisation has been able to fill only 880 posts.
“Hard and difficult working conditions in far-flung remote areas of the country, non-family stations, inclement weather conditions, inhospitable terrain and Naxalite (Maoist) or militancy problems inhibit young people from joining the BRO,” said the official.
The shortage of manpower is affecting the completion of 61 roads being constructed along the Line of Actual Control between India and China. So far, only 12 roads have been completed and the remaining 49 are facing delays.
–Indo-Asian News Service