NEW DELHI, July 7 - Even as the armies of India and China are locked in an eyeball to eyeball stand-off in the Doklam area at the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, comes a report which states that India�s border roads are not ready for war with China.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has as early as in March submitted a report �Construction of Indo-China Border Roads by Border Roads Organisation (BRO)� in the Parliament cautioning that border roads were anything but ready. The non-completion of works has a serious bearing on the operational capability of the armed forces in strategically sensitive areas, the CAG report said.
The report studies execution of works relating to 61 Indo-China border roads (ICBRs), which have been entrusted to the BRO to meet the requirement of the Army, ITBP and other users. Of these 61 ICBRs, 24 roads were selected to assess the effectiveness of planning and management of works, financial management, resource management, and quality and internal control mechanism.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by the Prime Minister had emphasized the time-bound completion of the Indo China border roads due to their strategic importance. As of March 2016, an expenditure of Rs 4,536 crore against an estimated cost of Rs 4,643 crore was incurred for these 61 ICBRs (total targeted road length of 3,409.29 km). However, only 36 per cent i.e. 22 roads having a length of 707.24 km had been completed.
On conduct of audit, only six roads were found completed by March 2016, while 17 other roads, on which an expenditure of Rs 1,797.28 crore had been incurred, were facing problems of substandard construction. Even the six roads having a total length 197 km, which have been completed at a cost of Rs 164 crore, were not fit for running of specialised vehicles and equipment such as Smerch and Pinaka rocket launchers, and Bofors field artillery due to various limitations like steep radiant, less width, inadequate turning radius and defective alignment, among others.
The annual works plans (AWPs) are neither prepared timely nor the physical targets achieved. The plans at various levels had not been framed realistically and there were critical gaps in implementing what had been planned. There were numerous instances of defective construction of roads on account of unsuitable design, steep gradient, defective alignment, turning radius problems, improper contract management, poor riding conditions, inadequate drainage facilities, non-connectivity of roads and abandonment of executed works.
This had not only resulted in delay in completion of strategic roads but also caused an infructuous expenditure of Rs 63.20 crore on account of realignment of roads. In certain cases expenditure was incurred in excess of the sanctioned amount without approval.
Moreover, deployment of General Reserve Engineering Force personnel was done in remote and hazardous working locations without adequate facilities. Users also expressed their dissatisfaction as the road works executed by the BRO did not adequately meet the requirement.
Users� feedback indicated that there were issues like improper gradient, undulating surface, improper turning radius, minimum passing places, unsatisfactory riding comfort, etc., with 17 of the 24 roads selected for audit.
The CAG report recommended that reconnaissance, survey and soil classification should be carried out to facilitate the completion of roads in time. The department concerned should expeditiously implement the plan for adoption of newer technologies like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and high resolution space technology for road construction works, the CAG noted, suggesting that the Ministry of Defence should take up the issue of fund availability with the Ministry of Finance.