The Indian Army has identified 130 villages in border areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim for boosting infrastructure.
Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita said this against the backdrop of increasing concerns over China’s expansion of civilian settlements close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Lt Gen Kalita, addressing an event, also said efforts are underway to have some sort of a “single window system” for according approvals for development of any infrastructure within 100 km from the LAC as time taken for obtaining various regulatory clearances results in delays in implementation of key projects.
The commander said many areas along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim fall under ecologically sensitive zones, wildlife protected regions and reserved forests and obtaining various approvals for projects become challenging at times.
“We are trying to evolve a methodology of some sort of a single window clearance for any infrastructure coming up within 100 km from the LAC,” he said, adding the move is aimed at ensuring faster pace of implementation of various projects.
At the same time, the Commander of the Eastern Command that takes care of the LAC in the Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim sectors, said a lot of work is going on to develop road and telecommunication networks in key areas bordering China.
On the development of the model villages along the LAC, Gen Kalita said the aim of the scheme is to ensure reverse migration and stop people from leaving the areas for better prospects.
The commander said while 28 out of 130 villages identified by the Army are in Sikkim, rest are in Arunachal Pradesh.
In her Budget speech in February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman touched upon the scheme to boost infrastructure in villages along the border with China. Besides the centrally-sponsored scheme, the Arunachal government is also developing model villages.
The identification of the villages to be developed under the scheme is being done under a consultative process involving the states concerned and central ministries including the Home Ministry.
“The recommendations of the armed forces have been taken. We have given our recommendations. We have identified 13O villages all across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. About 28 of them are in Sikkim and the rest are in Arunachal Pradesh,” Lt Gen Kalita said.
The commander said the infrastructure development work under the project has already started in Kaho village in Arunachal Pradesh.
On development of road infrastructure, Gen Kalita suggested that the broad focus is to have connectivity to the line of the passes along the frontier.
There has been a fresh spike in tensions between India and China after troops from the two sides were engaged in a clash along the LAC at Yangtse in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh on 9 December.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on 13 December that the Chinese troops tried to “unilaterally” change the status quo in the Yangtse area but the Indian Army compelled them to retreat by its firm and resolute response.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday said the Indian Army will not let China change the status quo along the LAC “unilaterally” and its current deployment along the frontier was not seen before.
In October last year, the then Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Manoj Pande (now Army Chief) told journalists that new villages have come up on the Chinese side of the border in certain areas and India has taken note of it in its operational strategy.
China has been setting up residential complexes in strategically key areas along the LAC reportedly with a military purpose. China is also developing military infrastructure like helipads, bunkers and ammunition storage units at a rapid pace in areas along the LAC, according to military officials.
The Indian Army is also focusing on enhancing infrastructure along the LAC following the eastern Ladakh row.
From construction of roads, bridges and ammunition depots to bolstering its surveillance apparatus, the Army is ramping up military infrastructure at a rapid pace for quicker mobilisation of troops.
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