TODAY -

Vibrant border villages - A 'game changer'
envisioned by PM Modi ji

Raju Bista *



Border villages are an important conduit of people, culture, language, and trade. These villages provide unique opportunities for building strong. ties with our neighbours, and they are also our first line of defence, against inimical forces. India is one ofthe very few nations in the world that shares borders with six countries.

India has 15106.7 Km oflandborder and a coastline of 7516.6 Km including island territories. Given such widespread borders, one would naturally assume that border regions' development would be prioritised. But tragically, under the previous governments, development of border regions, and border villages had remained ignored to a large extent.

However, today things have changed drastically after Hon'ble Prime Minister Sh. Narencira Modi ji took charge of our nation. With Modi ji at the helm, people living in far flung border regions don't need to come to Delhi requesting development, rather he took Delhi to the people sending his Ministers, bureaucrats, civil servants to the border regions, finding out the actual needs of the people living there, and ways to fulfil those needs in the most efficient manner.

Reimagining Borders Under the dynamic and visionary leadership of PM Modi ji, the Central government is today reimagining border development policies and facilitating rapid transformation of the border regions. From being an afterthought in the national priorities list, border regions have today become the first outpost of our nation's development.

Under Modi ji, the border regions of our nation are finally getting the attention and infrastructural development that had eluded them for decades. The central government has prioritised provisioning all forms of connectivity for the border regions - Air connectivity, Rail connectivity, Road connectivity, Power connectivity, Internet and Telecom connectivity, Waterways connectivity, Ropeway connectivity, Telemedicine and health connectivity, Education and Skills connectivity, Employment generation and livelihood connectivity.

Better Roads One of the fast actions the NDA government undertook after assuming power in 2014 was to establish the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), which was given the mandate to construct highways in the Northeast and hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. This has gone a long way in expediting project completion across the border regions.

In the past five years, the Central Government has constructed nearly 4000Icms of border roads, and MoRTH has also sanctioned over 12,000-km stretch of highways projects entailing a cost of Rs 1,90,000 .ores. Border Infrastructure and Management (BIM) To facilitate better coordination among border infrastructural needs and to expedite the border projects, the Central Govt introduced Border Infrastructure and Management (BIM) for developing infrastructure in border regions.

Under the 15th Finance Commission, our Govt has allocated Rs 13,020 crores for Border Infrastructure under BIM. The BIM initiative is helping in the creation of infrastructure such as border roads, fences, outposts, and technological solutions to strengthen the border management, and national security apparatus. Vibrant Villages Programme In order to ensure faster development of border villages, PM Modi ji envisioned the "Vibrant Villages" initiative.

Through this program, the government will help make border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure, become self-sufficient. Under this scheme the border villages will be provided with construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, provisioning of decentralized renewable energy, direct to home access for Doordarshan and educational channels, and support for livelihood generation.

Towards this the Central government has allocated a budget of Rs 2517.02 crores for the "Vibrant Villages" initiative in FY 2022-23. Transformation in Practice I represent the Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency. It lies in the heart of the "Chicken Neck" region of India and shares borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet (China).

Given the geo-strategic and national security concerns associated with our region, having good connectivity and infrastructure is of paramount importance. Thanks to PM Modi ji, today our Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region has become a hub of development, with numerous, highways, road, railway, airport, intemet and connectivity projects being undertaken in an expeditious manner.

This includes the construction of a new highway 717A which will become an alternative to NH10, that connects the border state Sikkim to rest of India. Recently BRO also completed the construction of an alternative highway connecting Alagar in Kalimpong to Damdim in Dooars. These alternative highways, will add much needed boost to the national security infrastructure in our region.

Work is also progressing rapidly for the Rs 8000 crone Sevoke-Rangpo rail line, which will connect the state of Sikkim to the railway network, and Bagdogra Airport, the only functional civilian airport in North Bengal, is getting a facelift with new terminals and modem amenities worth Rs 1800 crores. In addition, major developmental works are being taken under the Border Area Development Program (BADP) under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Presently, the Programme covers 457 Blocks of 117 border Districts in 16 States and 2 Union Territories along the international boundary. Government Reaching the People The various development projects I am witnessing are not just confined to my constituency alone. Similar development initiatives are being undertaken in each and every border region.

Recently, I got an opportunity to visit the border villages in Tripura with BJP National President Sh. JP Nadda ji for the `BIYM Border Village Sampark Abhiyan'. Every villager we met shared their happiness at how the Central Government and Tripura Government are working together to help provide for better housing, cleaner and hygienic living environment, provisioning lights, water, cooking gas, toilets, roads, ratio, fencing of border and ensuring their overall safety, security, and well-being.

The construction and completion of important infrastructure along the border, such as the Chenab Rail Bridge connecting Jammu with Kashmir region, the Atal Tunnel along the Manali-Ladakh highway showcases the dedication of our government towards ensuring year-round connectivity to the border region. Our government has recently announced a 1748 km long Frontier Highway (NH913) along the Indo-China border, which will add further heft to border infrastructure and will go a long way in strengthening national security.

These projects are critical from the national security perspective, and will ensure easy movement of defence forces to the border areas. These initiatives will also provide the border villagers easy access to all facilities, an opportunity to ascertain sustainable livelihood without the need for migrating out, and ensure their long-term prosperity and economic well-being. Various Central government schemes are reaching the people directly, and it is helping transform their lives.

With increasing connectivity, access to information, real time response from the government to the problems being faced by the people, our citizens in the border region feel more connected to the national mainstream. This is why, I am absolutely certain that the 'Vibrant Border Villages' as envisioned by PM Modi ji will turn out to be the real game changer for our nation in the long run.


* Raju Bista wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Raju Bista is the Member of Parliament from Darjeeling and BJP National Spokesperson.
This article was webcasted on 19 January 2023.



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