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Any hope for border areas?


By laying emphasis on development of infrastructure in Uttarakhand’s five districts sharing international borders with Nepal and China at the recent meeting on Internal Security in the national capital, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has touched the right chord. This is also perhaps for the first time that he has discussed inclusion of all 34 blocks in these districts in the Border Area Development Programme (BADP). However, even as the programme mainly deals with the growth and development of strategic border areas of Uttarakhand, the state government’s own response as well as the response of the Centre on providing civic amenities to residents of the border areas of the state, has been extremely poor.
In the past, occasional lengthy debates on development of frontier areas of the state have failed to yield any result, as the words have not been matched with real action on the ground. There are oft-repeated resolves of establishing power, water, communications, roads, health and education and other basic amenities in the villages of frontier areas. While politicians in the state are busy trading charges and leveling counter charges, the Centre and the state government are trying to come clean on this issue concerning the schemes and financial resources. In a way, there is much open display of deliberations and debate over development of frontier areas, whereas the pace of work being carried out on the ground is extremely tardy.
The role of the empowered committee on the Border Areas Development Programme is confined to pulling up officials for not spending the allocated amount in the frontier areas, while the efforts of the State Government are directed at merely saving its skin by putting forward numerous pleas. There are several schemes that have not reached frontier areas for decades. The moot question remains as to when the condition of villages of frontier areas, which are devoid of basic amenities, will improve?
Even from seen from the strategic point of view, the out-migration of population from villages adjoining the state’s borders with Nepal and Tibet is a matter of deep concern. Ever since the formation of the state, there has been a continuous stream of exodus of people from the frontier villages till now. This is because the government has failed to provide even the basic amenities to the villages. There is an air of apathy surrounding the implementation of centrally–financed schemes. There are several schemes hanging fire on the issue of transfer of forest lands. To what extent the recent Cabinet decision on scrapping a notification will help in removing hurdles posed by the Forest Act, also remains to be seen.
In Uttarakhand, only nine development blocks in the five border districts get the benefit of BADP. There is an impending need to lower eligibility standards to enable all the development blocks in the bordering districts to get benefits under the programme. The need of the hour for Central and the State governments is to prepare special pilot projects for frontier areas and ensure their time bound implementation. In view of the strategic location of Uttarakhand, the governments should make a start on according top priority to addressing the difficulties surrounding the development of its frontier areas.