An Indian parliamentary panel was recently amazed when told that the country’s Military Intelligence (MI) had no knowledge of the infrastructure and the roads being created by different countries, particularly China, across India’s borders.

Taking exception to such lack of information, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, which was examining officials on the ‘construction of roads in border areas’, said the response of the MI and the Defence Ministry ‘speaks volumes of the casual attitude towards such an important matter concerning the security of the nation’.

“The committee feels that it is utmost necessary to keep a watch on the construction activities on our borders by different countries and maintain the data in this regard. Besides, there is urgent need to ensure that our plans are in consonance with the impending security challenges,” the panel said, recommending that a mechanism be formulated in this regard.

The Defence Secretary and representatives of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) told the parliamentary committee that they would not be able to meet the deadline of 2012 to implement Long Term Perspective Plans (LTPP), which involve the construction of 277 roads of 13,100 km length at a cost of Rs 24,886 crore. The panel recorded strong reservations at the evidence of the BRO representative, who defended the tardy progress by saying the BRO takes far lesser time than other agencies like the Public Works Department (PWD).Angered at the response, the panel reminded the BRO that it was a prestigious organisation that needed to adhere to international standards.

Further, it said despite celebrating its golden jubilee in 2010, the BRO was yet to learn how to make tunnels.

Like the army, the BRO also has a shortage of officers. Out of its authorised strength of 1,999 officers, the BRO has 1,204, implying 36.9 percent deficiency. It also has 12.7 percent deficiency in subordinate cadre.

India has 14,880 km of land border with seven countries running through 92 districts in 17 states.

The committee also told the defence ministry to resolve the problems in construction of border roads. “We desire that specific action taken in this direction be intimated to us,” it said.

For creating a Wide Area Network (WAN) for the BRO, the committee said the government had sanctioned the project in 2006 to improve communication links in border areas but the Expression of Interest (EoI) was released only in 2009.

“The committee doesn’t appreciate the inordinate delay in such an important assignment. Since communication is vital in border areas, the committee would like it to be completed within a time-bound manner,” the committee said.

On the steps taken by the defence ministry to get forest and wildlife clearances, the committee said a three-level single window system has been operationalised in this direction and timelines have been fixed by the environment ministry.

“The ministry has not replied in regard to preparing a checklist for nodal officers clearly delineating responsibility of giving timelines. The committee wishes that the ministry furnish action in this regard soon