With an eye on China, Union Cabinet clears 7 ITBP battalions

Union Cabinet sanctions ₹4,800 crore under the Vibrant Villages Programme to stop migration and boost tourism in villages bordering China; tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity in Ladakh

February 15, 2023 05:36 pm | Updated February 18, 2023 11:16 am IST - New Delhi

An ITBP mock drill in Ladakh. File photo: YouTube/Rajya Sabha TV/National Security/ITBP in Ladakh

An ITBP mock drill in Ladakh. File photo: YouTube/Rajya Sabha TV/National Security/ITBP in Ladakh

India CHina Border dispute

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved two decisions — raising of seven new ITBP battalions and allocated ₹4,800 crore under the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) to stop migration and boost tourism in villages bordering China — to bolster social and security framework along the China border.

In the first decision, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved raising of seven new battalions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force. This would entail recruitment of 9,400 personnel for deployment in Arunachal Pradesh where 47 new border outposts and 12 staging camps are under construction. The outposts were sanctioned in January 2020. In all, there are 176 outposts of the ITBP along the 3,488-km China border.

A senior government official said the additional ITBP personnel would be deployed in Arunachal to fill the gaps. Other than this, a sector headquarter for the ITBP was also announced.

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said the decision to raise additional battalions was taken keeping an eye on the need for effective monitoring in the border areas and the battalion and sector headquarter would be raised by 2025-26.

“Under this, ₹1,808.15 crore non-recurring expenditure has been approved for construction of official and residential buildings, land acquisition, arms and ammunition. A recurring expenditure of ₹963.68 crore per year for the salary and ration of personnel has been approved,” Mr. Thakur said. The decision will increase the strength of the ITBP from the current 88,000 to 97,000, making it the fourth largest Central Armed Police Force (CAPF). New ITBP battalions were last raised in 2011 and the present decision has been in the pipeline since 2014. Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a stand-off at several locations since April-May 2020 in eastern Ladakh.

A map of the Central Armed Police Forces guarding India’s borders

A map of the Central Armed Police Forces guarding India’s borders

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In another decision, the Cabinet approved a Centrally sponsored scheme — the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) for the financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26 with an allocation of ₹4,800 crore for development of villages on the northern border, thus improving the quality of life of people living in identified border villages. An amount of ₹2,500 crore of the allocated funds will be spent on roads. Though VVP was announced in the 2022-23 Budget, no concrete budget or concept plan was shared then.

“This will help in encouraging people to stay in their native locations in border areas and reversing the out migration from these villages, adding to improved security of the border. Students and college students will be encouraged to visit the border villages,” Mr. Thakur said.

Infra development

The scheme will provide funds for development of essential infrastructure and creation of livelihood opportunities in 19 districts and 46 border blocks in four States and one Union Territory along the “northern land border of the country” which will help in achieving inclusive growth and retaining the population in the border areas. In the first phase, 663 villages will be covered. In all, 2,966 villages in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are proposed to be covered.

“The scheme aids to identify and develop the economic drivers based on local, natural, human and other resources of the border villages on the northern border and development of growth centres on ‘hub and spoke model’ through promotion of social entrepreneurship, empowerment of youth and women through skill development and entrepreneurship, leveraging the tourism potential through promotion of local, cultural, traditional knowledge and heritage and development of sustainable eco-agri businesses on the concept of ‘one village-one product’ through community based organisations, cooperatives, NGOs,” a government statement said.

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Vibrant Village Action Plans will be created by the district administration with the help of gram panchayats and 100% saturation of Central and State schemes will be ensured.

Key outcomes that have been attempted are, connectivity with all-weather road, drinking water, 24x7 electricity — solar and wind energy, mobile and Internet connectivity, tourist centres, multi-purpose centres and health and wellness centres. There will not be an overlap with the Border Area Development Programme (BADP).

The Cabinet also approved the construction of Shinku La Tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity in Ladakh. Mr, Thakur said the construction work of the 4.1 km tunnel would be completed by December 2025 and the total expenditure would be ₹1,681 crore. The Minister said the tunnel would lead to all-round development of the region and give a boost to tourism, health and education sectors. Mr. Thakur said this project was also important from a strategic and national security point of view.

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