Arunachal Pradesh: Major Development Activities along the LAC


Arunachal Pradesh: Major Development Activities along the LAC

Over the past year, residents of villages like Kibithoo, one of the easternmost villages in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering the Line of Actual Control (LAC)  have witnessed their Primary Health Centre and residences of the schoolteachers being upgraded, and concrete tracks being laid under the Central government’s Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP). Schools are also being renovated, with a new sports facilities.


Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP)

The VVP, writes Dinakar Peri (Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu covering defence and security issues) “was approved as a Centrally-sponsored scheme on February 15, 2023, with an outlay of ₹4,800 crore for the financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26 for the development of 2,967 villages in 46 blocks across 19 districts in the border States of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and the Union Territory of Ladakh. The objective of the VVP is comprehensive development of these villages to improve the quality of life of people, thereby reversing outmigration, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The VVP is an effort to counter China’s model villages — called Xiaokang (moderately prosperous) and located very close to the LAC opposite Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh — which have raised apprehensions in the security establishment.

“In the first phase of the VVP, 662 villages have been identified on priority, of which 455 are in Arunachal, with 245 earmarked in the III Corps area. Out of these, 23 villages have been identified by the Army in Tezu for priority development, officials on the ground say.”


Civil-military coordination: Operation Sadbhavna

The Army is also helping people in setting up businesses like bakeries through funds under Operation Sadbhavna, a social welfare scheme spanning the areas of environment, education, and skilling.

With tourists trickling in, Peri states “the Army has lined up a renovation plan that will see new decor, lighting, and seating, estimated to cost between ₹30 lakh and ₹35 lakh.” Once there is decent mobile connectivity, expected in the next few months, UPI payments will also be made available, improving ease of payments, officials say.

Civil-military coordination is a prerequisite for the programme in border areas, says Lt. Col. R.S. Manhas, from a unit of the Punjab Regiment deployed in the area. ‘Our works through Operation Sadbhavna function as a feeder to the VVP,’ he says.

Developmental projects and outreach activities: The Army has allocated ₹15 crore under Operation Sadbhavna for developmental projects and outreach activities in the forward areas in III Corps area for 2022-23.

Work on the 2,400-km trans-Arunachal highway, which goes along the length of the border, is about 92% complete and the rest is expected to be completed this year, another official says.

The new, almost 1,800-km-long frontier highway, on which work has commenced, writes Per “will fill a critical void facilitating inter-valley movement. It will start from Bomdila in Arunachal’s west, pass through Nafra, Huri and Monigong villages, and end in Vijaynagar, near the Indo-Myanmar border. The roads cut through eastern Arunachal’s thick forests.

“Another 3,000 km of road infrastructure is also under planning and construction in the State. A number of operational tracks are being built by the Army to ensure last-mile connectivity in the forward areas, and in addition, a large number of projects have been sanctioned under the Prime Minister ‘Gati Shakti’ project for infrastructure development.”

A total of 34 new bridges have been constructed between 2020 and 2023, and three are under construction, all of which are Class 70 or higher, which means they have a capacity to carry 70 tonnes of load or higher. ‘All seven valleys have been connected with Chinook-specific helipads to ensure aerial connectivity,’ a source says, meaning they can be used by CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters of the Air Force, which have emerged as a game changer on the LAC.


Major reorientation of troops

Since the 2020 stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, writes Peri “the Army has carried out a major reorientation of troops from the western borders to the northern and eastern borders, and a change in the Order of Battle (ORBAT), the structural changes involved in maintaining troops and machines. As a part of this, several battalions that were committed to counter-insurgency roles in the Northeast were moved to the LAC.

“The Army’s artillery guns — M777 Ultra Light Howitzers and 105mm Indian Field Guns — are deployed close to the LAC. The M777s, with a range of over 30 km, weigh just four tonnes and can be airlifted underslung on Chinooks, giving significant manoeuvrability in terms of long-range firepower between the valleys. Over the last few years, a range of new-generation equipment ranging from SIG-716 rifles, Negev light machine guns, Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles, tactical drones, sensors, and other weapons and equipment have been inducted here.”


Mobile connectivity

Another aspect witnessing tremendous change, writes Peri  “is mobile connectivity. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was established with the fundamental objective of providing access to ‘basic telegraph services’ to people in remote and rural areas at aordable and reasonable prices.

“Under the USOF, an agreement was signed with the Bharti Group in 2021 for the commissioning of towers and provision of 4G-based mobile services at 980 sites, covering 1,683 uncovered villages in Arunachal Pradesh, with a roll-out time of 21 months.”


Border tourism project

As connectivity improves, "efforts are on to promote tourism. Under the ‘Seema Darshan project’ (Border tourism project), the State government, with support from the Army, has approved 12 tourist circuits, including two foreign tourist ones, beyond the Kameng area. Religious tourism to Kepang La, Pasang Sonam Tso Lake, and Taksang Gompa is also being showcased and promoted, an official says, adding that passes for trekking are also being facilitated.

All Defence Articles