Joshimath, Uttarakhand: Home minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday that people living along the China border were the country’s “strategic assets”, and directed the frontier guarding force Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to ensure that they did not migrate as this would put India’s security at risk.
Addressing locals and ITBP troops at the 1st battalion camp in Joshimath, Singh said the border population should be given more importance as the government has “full faith and trust” in the people living in these remote areas. “People living along the India-China border should not be made to migrate at any cost. They are our strategic assets. They should be given more importance. The day they will migrate…that will not be good for our border security,” he said.
The minister said the border population held an important place in the hearts of the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The prime minister has said special attention should be given to the well-being of the people living on the borders. I will request ITBP (personnel) to make friends with the local population in the area of their border deployment,” he said.
The minister asked the border force to hold special camps to help the locals and assist them in redressing their problems. The minister, on the third day of his tour of the areas, travelled to the high-altitude border out posts (BoPs) of the ITBP in Lapthal and Rimkhim by helicopter. While this was the first time a home minister visited the Lapthal BoP, Rimkhim was last visited by then home minister L.K. Advani in 1998.
Singh had on Friday visited the Mana ITBP BoP in Chamoli district of the state. The minister said that he would take up the issue of high mobile call rates with the authorities concerned and restore the Re1 per minute BSNL calling rate, through satellite phones, for the jawans of the force deployed at some of the most arduous and high altitude posts along this border.
Singh said he was not happy that the rates were revised to Rs5 per minute sometime ago. “This is the only means for our jawans to talk to their homes and families. I will definitely take this up,” he said. The home minister said his ministry had enhanced the funds provided to frontier states under the Border Action Development Plan (BADP) from the allocations of last year, and in Uttarakhand five border districts and their nine blocks would be covered under it on priority for construction of roads.
He said out of the special drive to construct 27 border roads in various states, 10 have been given to Uttarakhand as he directed authorities to finish the work on these links expeditiously. He said more roads in the Himalayan state would be constructed under the BADP scheme as he added that the work on four stretches had been completed while one or two would become operational by this year. The rest will get completed by 2019-20, he added.
During the event, where Singh also inaugurated a medical and civic action camp for the locals, Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat declared that his government will provide job to one family member of a trooper who is killed in the line of duty. He also announced that the state, in order to boost the income and provide work opportunities to the border population, would provide four lakh saplings of walnut and apricot trees, free of cost.
The chief minister added that the hill state would raise two companies (about 200 personnel) of an ‘eco task force’ at the cost of Rs5 crore and would recruit retired soldiers as its manpower. The home minister reiterated that the border dispute between India and China would be resolved with the help of “structured dialogue” as no country in the world now wanted confrontation. He said the recent Dokalam “deadlock” between the two neighbours was resolved after a positive approach was made.
Singh praised the ITBP troops for doing their duty “very bravely, patiently and diligently”. He said he was visiting ITBP posts to compliment the force and boost the morale of these men who face various hardships and adversities while rendering their task and nothing more should be read into it.
The 90,000-personnel strong ITBP is tasked with guarding the 3,488km long Sino-India border across five states starting from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.