Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday formally opened 44 bridges built by the army’s Border Roads Organisation, or BRO, delivering what the government described as a record-breaking performance. The 44 are among the 102 bridges that are being built by the BRO. These bridges are designed to withstand movement of India’s heaviest battle tanks.
An official said 30 of the 44 bridges commissioned on Monday fall on the route to the Line of Actual Control from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
These are class 70 bridges; technicalese for bridges that can bear the weight of 70 tonne vehicles.
India’s heaviest battle tank Arjun is about 60 tonnes. The T-90 Bhishma tanks that were moved to locations in the East Ladakh sector after China’s People’s Liberation Army signalled its reluctance to step back from the Line of Actual Control weigh about 45 tonnes.
These bridges would improve connectivity and permit faster development of troops and support elements that would vastly improve the capability of the armed forces to respond to any situation along the LAC.
The government had earlier doubled the BRO’s annual targets to build 102 bridges this year against an annual average of 50 bridges.
India needs to catch up with China which has invested heavily in ramping up border infrastructure for decades. “We had already lost too much time and could not allow a business-as-usual approach,” said a BRO official, a reference to the decision taken by previous governments not to upgrade border infrastructure.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had alluded to this decision when he opened the Atal tunnel earlier this month, blaming previous governments for their misplaced priorities and lack of political will to focus on border roads along the border with China.
PM Modi had, since taking charge after a landslide win in 2014, focused on strengthening infrastructure along the India-China border.
It is a reflection of the government’s hard push in this context that the BRO’s annual budget, which ranged between Rs 3,300 crore and Rs 46,00 crore crore in 2008-2016, saw a substantial rise and is pegged at over Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21, an official statement said.
At Monday’s event to formally open the 44 bridges, defence minister Rajnath Singh showered praises on the BRO and its chief Lt Gen Harpal Singh for delivering on its targets in the most hostile terrain and weather conditions.
Lt Gen Harpal Singh said the BRO the 44 bridges commissioned on Monday are in addition to the 10 bridges completed earlier in the year. Lt Gen Singh said the fresh round of 44 bridges are located in Jammu and Kashmir (10), Ladakh (8), Himachal Pradesh (2), Punjab (4), Uttarakhand (8), Arunachal Pradesh (8) and Sikkim (4).
“These bridges of various spans, constructed by BRO, range from 30 metres to 484 metres are of strategic importance and have been designed to facilitate movement of heavy civil and military traffic in border areas,” he said, underscoring that some of these bridges were in locations that made building a 30-metre long bridge far more difficult than to make even a 1,000-metre long bridge.