NEW DELHI: Forty-four permanent bridges providing connectivity to forward areas on the western, northern and north-eastern fronts were formally inaugurated on Monday, even as defence minister Rajnath Singh warned against a collusive China-Pakistan agenda to create trouble on India’s borders.
“You are well aware of the conditions created on our northern and eastern borders. First, it was Pakistan, and now also China…it seems border disputes are being created as part of a mission,” said Singh while inaugurating the bridges.
“We have a border of about 7,000 km with these countries, where tension prevails on a daily basis,” added Singh while dedicating the bridges built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at a cost of Rs 286 crore. He also virtually laid the foundation stone for the proposed 450-metre long Nechiphu tunnel on the road to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
The bridges, with spans varying from 30 to 484 m in seven states and UTs, have been completed at a time when India is engaged in a military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh since early-May. The Line of Control with Pakistan also remains extremely volatile, with around 3,300 ceasefire violations already being recorded this year, breaking all annual records since 2003, as was reported by TOI earlier.
Eight of the 44 bridges are located in Ladakh, including a crucial one over the Shyok river on the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) road. The 70-tonne class bridge can withstand the weight of tanks and provides Indian troops easier access to the crucial Depsang and Galwan Valley areas. The other bridges are in J&K (10), Himachal Pradesh (2), Punjab (4), Uttarakhand (8), Sikkim (4) and Arunachal Pradesh (8). Noting that the dedication of 44 bridges in one go was a record, the defence minister said the Modi government was ushering in historic changes in all sectors of infrastructure development despite the challenge posed by Covid-19 and the border tensions caused by Pakistan and China.
“These bridges have improved connectivity in the far-flung areas of western, northern and north-east sectors and fulfilled the aspirations of local people. They will also meet the transport and logistics requirements of the armed forces throughout the year,” he added.
BRO’s annual budget, which varied from Rs 3,300 crore to Rs 4,600 crore from 2008 to 2016, has been substantially hiked to over Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21, he said.
BRO chief Lt-General Harpal Singh, in turn, said special emphasis has been laid on construction of bridges, which saw 28 major ones being completed last year. Fifty-four of the 102 major bridges earmarked for this year have also been completed, he added.