Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Neglected Frontiers of India

The report by NDTV posted below is interesting because it is one of the rare times when Indian journalists were allowed by the government to visit border areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a man of many firsts.
His office should take the initiative to regularly organize media trips to the borders in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh (Shipkila), Uttarakhand (Mana, Lipulek-la, etc.), Northern Sikkim and Arunachal.
The journalists should be briefed on the local issues by the civil administrations (District Commissioners, etc.) as well as by the Army and the paramilitary forces (ITBP, SSB and others).
It would be a first to make known to the general public the issues faced by the people living on the border. It could be a first step towards a greater integration of the Indian frontier areas.
In my interview with Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, he mentioned about relocating people in these areas, but it is a much more difficult exercise, which will take more time and planning.
To bring the media may also highlight some negative issues such as the lack of infrastructure, the poor communication network, the tensions between the local population and the paramilitary forces, etc.
But if these issues are known to the general public, it could be the first step to correct them and make sure that the patriotic border populations do not migrate further towards the 'big' towns of Leh, Gangtok or Itanagar.
By the way, in the NDTV's report, one sees that the Zorawar Fort near Demchok, which is in the hands of the Chinese, one also sees the newly-constructed guest house on the Chinese side. See my posting on this a few weeks ago.

Ground Report from Ladakh's Neglected Border Areas
Nitin Gokhale
August 16, 2014
Demchok, Ladakh:  Chewang Rinchin, resident of Merak Village along the Pangong Lake is angry. For years, he and fellow residents of this village that partly serves as the Line of Actual Control with China, feel totally let down by the government for not providing even the basic amenities to them.
He is a vocal participant in the rare meeting the villagers have with the District Collector. Villagers resent their backwardness more because on the other side of the LAC, China is developing border areas faster.
Rinchin says a vital road connecting his village to district capital Leh is absent so many years after Independence. "If you look at the Chinese side, barely 10 km from here, they have developed their area so well. What crime have we done not to even get as basic a facility as a road," he asks this reporter, perhaps the first to reach here.
Ladakh District Collector Simrandeep Singh and officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police listen to the woes patiently. Mr Singh gives some instant decision but years of neglect cannot be undone in some months. The story gets repeated in every village along the LAC.
At Demchok, the last and the southern most village in south eastern Ladakh, is where Indus enters India.
"First of all the BADP funding was required to increase over the years. It has always remained around 10-13 crore which has to be spend in about 30-odd villages which are along the LAC and Line of Control on the Pakistan side. So, the funding hasn't increased much. Even if we ignore the funding, this is the area we are severely short of staff. Today you must have noticed when I was interacting with the villagers they do not have the junior engineers in this entire block and a junior engineer is very important in rural development for preparing bills and insuring that the works take on the ground and finally for the payments after the works are done... this poses multiple challenge, our side constantly feel that they are being ignored. So the challenge to keep the people happy," Mr Singh told NDTV.
However, the well laid out residential colonies on the Chinese side are clearly visible in total contrast to poorly equipped housing on Indian side.
The Demchok nullah serves as the LAC. On the other side of the nullah is the Chinese side where the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has made buildings for civilians that are made of concrete and look modern, whereas on the Indian side, the buildings are primitive and shabby. So, the people living here resent the presence of Chinese, and may be tempted to actually go to the other side. That's the danger India faces far as border population in Ladakh is concerned.

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