Right step

The government has done well to expedite the building of defence infrastructure along the northern and eastern border of the country by easier facilitation of clearances for the projects.

One major impediment in building of roads and rail lines in the border areas had been the strict rules under the Forest (Conservation) Act, the Wildlife (Protection) Act and other environment-related regulations.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s announcement that the government will adopt a policy-based approach to environmental issues rather than deal with the projects on a case-by-case basis will help reduce delays in implementation.

Infrastructure projects close to the Line of Actual Control will now require approvals from only state governments and this can fast-track many of them.

The need for multiple levels of clearances had slowed down many projects.

The 4,000-km border with China from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh has to be strengthened with good roads everywhere and rail lines and air landing facilities wherever required.

But work on about 6,000 km of roads, planned for quick access to the border, has been stalled for want of clearances.

Proposals made by the defence ministry to build 14 strategic railway lines have not been seriously pursued.

Plans to build advanced landing grounds and for modernisation of present airfields also need to be expedited. Projects to build camps and bases for the Mountain Strike Corps, which was raised recently, have also been held up due to environmental objections.

A simpler, transparent and predictable process of clearances, which has now been promised, will hopefully lead to quicker execution of the projects.|

The need to create and improve infrastructure along the border is underlined by the fact that China has created excellent physical facilities on their side.

A high-altitude rail line from mainland China now comes up to the Indian border. China has also laid good all-weather roads and set up best communication facilities along the entire stretch.

The terrain and topography on the Indian side are much more difficult than on the Tibetan plateau, but the difficulties should not daunt the need to improve defence preparedness.

Critical defence projects should not be stymied by excessive adherence to regulations and procedures.

The creation of infrastructure should also help in the economic development of the border states, especially those in the Northeast.

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