New Delhi: In a bid to boost India’s border road connectivity especially along China, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will be entirely brought under the ministry of defence by the next budget.

Around 6,000-7,000 km of non-sensitive roads in border areas will be handed over to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), defence minister Manohar Parrikar said. The BRO receives funds from the ministry of road transport and highways but undertakes the tasks assigned by the ministry of defence. The dual control of BRO is one of the principal reasons behind non-availability of funds and the organization’s not-up-to-the-mark performance, officials said.

“BRO will be brought fully under the defence ministry. There was lot of confusion because it was under two masters," Parrikar said, adding that the process would be completed by the next budget. In the last two years, BRO received more than 110 crore less than what it wanted from the road transport ministry. Parrikar, in an interaction with journalists here last night, said, “Work ethics (in BRO) have to be improved".

Road connectivity to border areas is a major force multiplier in conflict situations, as they are crucial for rapid troop movement and equipment mobilization. Incidentally, the BRO has failed to meet the deadlines in 73 strategic road projects on the India-China border, cleared by the cabinet committee on security in June 2006. The deadline to complete the 3,500 km road build up was 2012. But so far only over 500 km of roads have been built, and the deadline has been extended to 2016.
On the question of a rail link along the China-India border, the minister said he will soon hold meetings with railway minister Suresh Prabhu. On China’s objections to infrastructure development in the border areas, Parrikar just said, “What we do on our side of the border is our business."

Parrikar also said the government is open to reviewing all cases of blacklisted defence firms on merit and has partially lifted a ban on Tatra trucks as it prepares a new policy that will allow foreign defence firms to legally hire agents. The new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), which will lay thrust on development of domestic defence industry and faster acquisition process, will be issued in another month and a half.

Asked about the new government’s policy on blacklisted firms, Parrikar said, the “debarment principle" is also being worked out and pointed out the basic principle is in the interest of the armed forces. “So if I have to deal with a firm which does have some earlier colour on it, it will based on merit," Parrikar said in an interaction with journalists late on Tuesday night in New Delhi. He added that based on merit and necessity, the government can “consider after proper verification, lifting the ban or restriction to a reasonable level".

Explaining the process, he said state-run BEML has been allowed to supply spare parts for the Tatra trucks as long as it does not deal with the British subsidiary of the company, which was banned by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) following a scandal. “We have lifted the restricted ban for technical and purchases of spares from the original company provided they have nothing to do with the people who have been blacklisted," he said.

Parrikar pointed out that one should not just go by the name Tatra as there are three-four companies which make the trucks. “The company which has been banned is Tatra UK and we have permitted BEML to deal with the original company which is owned by different people now," he said, adding the condition is that they should not have relations with “questionable individuals".

“A restricted no-objection certificate has been granted to BEML, because we do need for defence purpose Tatra vehicles. It has become critical for certain applications," he said. Heavy vehicle maker Tatra was banned in March 2012 after the then army chief V.K. Singh’s allegations that he was offered bribe to clear “sub-standard trucks" supplied by the company to the Indian Army.

Close