Almost eight years after the work began, six of the seven Advanced Landing Grounds in Arunachal Pradesh are nowhere close to being operational restricting India’s ability to move troops quickly close to the China border.
Equally tardy progress has been made in completing the railway networks to the Sino-Indian border. Soon after coming to the power, the Narendra Modi government picked up four railway links — out of the 14 identified strategic lines — to start the work quickly.
Ten months down the line, even the initiation of work is caught in the red tapes, says the defence ministry’s new assessment that was shared with Parliament on the eve of Prime Minister’s visit to China.
The railway ministry has calculated a cost of Rs 344.84 crore for carrying out the final allocation survey of these four lines: Misamari-Tawang; Pasighat-Rupai; Bilaspur-Leh and North Lakhimpur-Silapathar. But for the last several months, the bureaucracy is caught up with the task of how the money would be shown in the account books.
On the reactivation of the ALG, the assessment states Walong is the only site where more than 80 per cent work has been completed. The second best is Ziro, where 60 per cent of the work has been done. Little progress has been made in other airfields like Passighat, Mechuka, Along, Tuting and Tawang. The least work, just 12 per cent, was done in Tawang, where there is a sizable presence of the Indian Army.
The defence ministry plans to reactivate these ALGs to operate the Indian Air Force’s C-130J and the upgraded AN-32. But barring Vijaynagar, where an An-32 landed in November, 2011, there is little success in the North-East so far.
IAF flights to Vijaynagar were discontinued in 2009 due to poor condition of the runway made out of pierced steel plate sheets. But when the Centre decided to reactivate the advanced landing, extensive repair work was undertaken to make it operational.