By Prashansa Srivastava
The Home Ministry has released Rs 167 crore to nine states of India that share international borders, for the development of infrastructure in these areas, under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP). The nine states that will be benefitted are Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Sikkim, Tripura, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal.
The Border Area Development Programme
The Border Area Development Programme was started in 1986-87 for the balanced development of states that share international borders. It became a fully centrally funded programme in 1993-94. It covers all villages which are located within 0-10 kilometres of an international border. 17 Indian states are located on international borders. These Indian states, in order from East to West, are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya in the northeast; Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim in the northern planes; Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand in the extreme north; and Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west. However, priority is given to those villages which are identified by the Border Guarding Forces for the speedy development of infrastructure.
The main objective of BADP is to meet the special needs of the people living in remote, and inaccessible areas situated near the border. This includes developing adequate infrastructure, providing economic opportunities to those living in the vicinity of the borders and instilling a sense of security among them. Border development is important to combat issues such as economic backwardness and poor accessibility.
Initially, the programme was implemented in the western border states, with an emphasis on the development of infrastructure to facilitate the deployment of the Border Security Force. Later, the ambit of the programme was widened to include other socio-economic aspects such as education, health, agriculture and other allied sectors. Grass root level institutions, such as Panchayati Raj Institutions, District Councils or Traditional Councils, are encouraged to participate in deciding the priority schemes for their areas. The schemes permissible under BADP include activities related to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, skill development programmes, promotion of sports activities, promotion of rural tourism, border tourism and protection of heritage sites.
Security-related schemes are also taken up under the BADP. Construction of helipads in remote and inaccessible hilly areas, which do not have road connectivity; skill development training to farmers for the use of modern and scientific techniques in farming; along with organic farming are other areas which come under the BADP. Earlier, the Home Ministry had released Rs 174 crore to six states having international border under the same programme.
Asymmetrical impact of the scheme
A NITI Aayog report entitled “Evaluation Study on Border Area Development Programme ” revealed that 80 percent of the inhabitants of the states covered under the study did not feel satisfied with the impact of BADP. In most of the North-Eastern states, a large proportion of the local people faced inadequate infrastructure. Though the scheme has achieved some success in northern and western states such as Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, it has failed to impact the vulnerable North-Eastern states.
The North-Eastern states which, apart from facing a lack of basic amenities on a large scale, are also topographically and climatically challenging, have faced the problem of stalling of projects. Heavy rain or huge landslides delay projects and adversely impact half-completed projects. In some states such as Manipur and Bihar, BADP funds are left unspent each year, while, at the ground level, projects get delayed owing to the lack of funds. The reason for this is inadequate planning. Political interference, corruption, meagre funds, faulty implementation by states and inadequate provisions of local participation have further contributed to the inefficiency of the BADP. Dealing with inadequacy and the syphoning of funds, the states have resorted to short-term remedial solutions. For example, a number of ropeways have been constructed in Meghalaya using the sparse funds. Lack of connectivity makes the access to basic amenities extremely difficult, hindering their infrastructural development.
Social development of border areas
The social sectors, especially those of education and health, are found to be seriously deficient in infrastructure and systems of service delivery. Lack of access to schools, particularly at secondary levels, impedes the growth of people living in the border areas. This problem directly impacts girl students in the rural areas, resulting in a high drop-out ratio for them. BADP funds should be used for the setting up of secondary and higher secondary schools to make more people employable and prevent children from dropping out. The development of the social sector is not possible until the BADP scheme is integrated with existing programs in terms of using and sharing resources, Local participants must, moreover, be involved at the grassroots planning level.
The health and sanitation facilities are also in a desperate need of an upgrade in most border areas. The infant mortality and child mortality rates are comparatively higher in the border areas, as compared with those in the non-border districts. This is due to a deficient health care infrastructure. Lack of drinkable water and poor access to healthcare have contributed to this dismal state. Critical needs of those living in such areas must be met, so as to ensure the economic upliftment and sense of security of the people. This can be done through the construction of well-equipped schools, extra classrooms in existing schools, health centres, toilets, water treatment plans, and so on.
Economic development of border areas
The biggest problem in border villages is the lack of a constant source of revenue. For example, most of the border areas of Rajasthan are monsoon-dependent, desert areas. There is a single farming season and during the rest of the time, people don’t have any fixed source of income. Draining and irrigation facilities must be improved to improve the state of agriculture and other primary sectors. The BADP scheme should also aim to increase employment, especially among the youth. This can be done with efficient convergence with existing government programs and through the diversification of employment opportunities. BADP should include some schemes to help enhance tourism opportunities wherever possible, as a way to offer newer employment opportunities for the local population. Some of these areas also offer a good scope for the development of small-scale industries.
People living in the border areas can also derive great benefits through development of trade initiatives with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan. Trade can be conducted in a more organized manner through small-time markets modelled on trade fairs called haats so that a larger section of the population can benefit directly from such initiatives.
Thus, the entire North-Eastern region, which is strategically important, is underdeveloped in terms of economic security and infrastructure. It still lacks basic infrastructure, including proper road connectivity. The region needs more support, planning and funds. For the BADP scheme to be truly successful, it must allocate funds appropriately and check that they are effectively utilised. More than simply allocating funds, better inspection and monitoring is needed for border development. India’s long coastline faces a number of pressing and diverse challenges which must be tackled in the background of the changing geopolitics of Asia. Border development is not only important domestically but also enhances international cooperations, trade, and commerce.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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