Heralding in a new era in the connectivity of roads and bridges in sensitive areas close to western, northern and north-eastern borders, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday inaugurated 44 major permanent bridges. He also laid the foundation stone for Nechiphu Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh. These bridges are of strategic importance and provide connectivity to remote areas.
The 44 bridges are spread over seven states/Union Territories. The dedication ceremony was conducted through a video conference in the presence of Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff Gen M.M. Naravane and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar at South Block in New Delhi. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, Lt Governor of J&K, with Members of Parliament, civil/military dignitaries along with members of the public at various sites in respective states/UTs attended through a video link.
In his address, the Defence Minister congratulated DG and all ranks of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for their achievements and said that dedication of 44 bridges in one go in itself was a record. He said in the challenging times of Covid-19 and despite the border tensions and disputes caused by Pakistan and China, the country was not only resolutely facing them but also bringing about historical changes in all sectors of development under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lauding the BRO for its role in improving the border infrastructure, Rajnath Singh emphasised that these bridges improved connectivity in the far-flung areas of western, northern and north-east sectors and fulfilled the aspirations of local people. They would also meet the transport and logistics requirements of the armed forces throughout the year. He also mentioned that roads and bridges are the lifeline of any nation and play a vital role in the socio-economic development of far flung regions.
Reiterating the Central government’s commitment to boost development activities in border areas, he said that progress of all projects is regularly being monitored and adequate funds are being provided for their timely execution. Further elaborating, he said, that the annual budget of BRO that varied from Rs 3,300 crore to Rs 4,600 crore in years 2008-2016, saw a substantial rise and is pegged at over Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21. There was no reduction of this budget despite Covid-19. The Defence Minister also announced that the government has sanctioned high altitude clothing to BRO engineers and workers.
Rajnath Singh also laid the foundation stone of the strategically important Nechiphu Tunnel on the road to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. This 450m long, bi-lane tunnel would ensure all weather connectivity across Nechiphu Pass besides providing a safe and secure passage through accident prone areas.
Briefing the dignitaries, Lt Gen Harpal Singh, DG BRO, said the 44 bridges of various spans ranging from 30m to 484m are located in J&K (10), Ladakh (08), Himachal Pradesh (02), Punjab (04), Uttarakhand (08), Arunachal Pradesh (08) and Sikkim (04). They are of strategic importance and have been designed to facilitate movement of heavy civil and military traffic in border areas. In line with the vision of Prime Minister Modi, these bridges will contribute towards the overall economic growth of remote border areas and will also assist in speedy deployment of Armed Forces in strategically important sectors. He said that in addition to expediting road construction, the BRO has laid special emphasis on construction of bridges by completing 28 major bridges last year while 102 major bridges are being completed this year. Fifty-four of these bridges have already been completed. Over 60 Bailey Bridges have also been constructed by BRO to meet immediate requirements of armed forces and people living in remote areas.
BRO has worked relentlessly even during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, continuing with works of strategic importance like Construction of Major Bridges & Roads, Atal Tunnel Rohtang, Sela Tunnel, etc, and Snow Clearance for opening of Strategic Mountain Passes. In spite of unprecedented snowfall breaking a 60 years record, all strategic passes and roads were cleared for traffic about one month before their average yearly opening dates. This brought relief to people of border areas and ensured rapid & early movement of troops & logistics.