In a major push to develop and improve connectivity in border areas, villages along the northern border will see development under the new Vibrant Villages Programme, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Tuesday.
The move comes in the backdrop of China setting up “model villages” close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“Border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure often get left out from the development gains. Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Villages Programme,” Ms. Sitharaman said in her Budget speech. “The activities will include construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, provisioning of decentralised renewable energy, direct to home access for Doordarshan and educational channels, and support for livelihood generation.”
Additional funding for these activities would be provided and existing schemes converged, she stated. “We will define their outcomes and monitor them on a constant basis,” she stated.
There is already a broader Border Area Development Plan undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs for development of all border States.
The 2021 annual report of the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) to the U.S. Congress on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had noted: “Sometime in 2020, the PRC built a large 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between the PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh State in the eastern sector of the LAC.”
Responding to questions on such “model villages” by China, Lt. Gen. Pande, who assumed charged as the Army’s Vice Chief said last October that the concern was the “dual use” nature, civil and military, of these villages and “we have taken note of these in our operational plans.”
To counter Chinese moves, a border development plan to populate border areas along the LAC with local population has been under discussion for sometime.