A hybrid beast of burden could soon be factored in India’s Border Area Development Programme (BADP) that marries development with security on the frontlines.
The mule, an offspring of a male donkey and a mare (female horse), is an essential pack animal for the armed forces to carry food and heavy weapons to remote outposts on difficult slopes in Arunachal Pradesh.
Atul Tayeng, Deputy Commissioner of the frontier State’s Siang district, said the State government was working on a mule track scheme for inclusion in the BADP. This followed an experiment entailing the distribution of 10 mules to be used as a mode of transportation in remote villages under the district’s Payum circle.
Payum, the circle headquarters, is more than 100km from Boleng, the district headquarters. One has to walk for four hours from the last vehicle point to reach Payum.
The villages to be covered by the mules are 10-25 km from another point near Payum where goods-carrying vehicles can reach.
“The distribution of the mules marks the start of an experimental mule service for carrying public distribution system items and other essential commodities. A committee in each village headed by the gaonburah (headman) has been entrusted with the custody and maintenance of the animals,” Mr. Tayeng said.
The district authority procured the mules and trained the locals in handling the animals that are invariably sterile but sturdier and more intelligent than either parent.
“If the experiment succeeds, more pack animals will be provided to each village until roads reach the circle. We are also planning to have the mule track scheme incorporated in the BADP,” he said.
The BADP, an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) introduced in 1993-94, was implemented initially to develop infrastructure along the Pakistan border for facilitating the deployment of the Border Security Force. The purview of the programme was widened for meeting special developmental needs and well-being of people living in villages, semi-urban and urban areas located within 10 km of the Zero Line marking the boundary between two countries.
According to the MHA, the BADP covers 396 blocks of 111 border districts in 18 States and Union Territories (UTs). These States are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The UTs are Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.