The Government of India is paying special attention to the development of border villages, especially from a security perspective. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on December 29 that borders could be permanently secured only when border villages are populated by patriotic citizens who are concerned for the country. Mr. Shah asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to effectively use the Vibrant Village Programme (VVP), announced by the Centre in the 2022 Budget, to promote development and communication in border villages. The scheme is for funding development of “border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure (that) often get left out from the development gains,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said in her Budget speech in 2022. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the scheme signified the government’s “holistic approach” to ensure that these villages have all facilities. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed Parliament on March 29, 2022 that plans were afoot for the convergence of existing schemes into the new one; and an implementation framework, fund requirements and other modalities were being finalised. The existing Border Area Development Plan of the MHA covers development of all border regions, and it is unclear how VVP will be different from that.
One year after it was announced, there is little clarity on the details of VVP, including on the question of whether it will cover all border areas or only the northern border with China as mentioned in the Budget. The government has said VVP would cover 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. There were also plans to open the villages along the China border in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Ladakh for tourists. The MHA recently informed a Parliamentary Standing Committee that the budget provisions for the programme have been sent to the Expenditure Finance Committee for its approval. Holding border areas close to the rest of the country is a dynamic challenge and requires a sensitive approach. Borders divide people of shared ethnic and cultural heritage, who are unmoved by rivalries of nations that animate strategists. They should not be challenged to be the vanguards of patriotism.
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