Samba: Work is being expedited on improving surface connectivity and communication along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, with 1425 kms of road length being taken up, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said today while acknowledging problems on these aspects.
He also said that ITBP, which guards 3488 kms of the border with China with "determination and dedication", should get better equipment and a large number of facilities which are scarce for them.
The Minister, while interacting with ITBP officers and jawans here, also said that he will try to clear "within days" the proposal of setting up of 8 battalions of ITBP, 40 border posts, 12 subsidary posts and 12 staging camps.
On communication front, he said the government has given approval for mobile towers to 34 BOPs and that work has started on setting up of mobile towers.
"I was telling your DG that I do not want to make only promises to you," Singh said as he, accompanied by ITBP chief Krishen Choudhary, began a three-day visit to Jammu and Ladakh to take stock of the situation on the International Border in the Jammu region and the LAC between India and China in the Ladakh region of the state.
"There is a problem of road connectivity in these areas. I have knowledge of this. There is also problem of communication along the borderline," the Home Minister said.
"In 2008, construction of 804 kms of road length along India-China border was approved but due to some reasons, 804 kms road length could not be constructed but 191 km road length has been set up and work is on for the rest (613 kms) of the project," he said.
"In second phase, we have decided to construct 812 km of road length," he said.
He said he also feels that jawans of ITBP should get better equipment and there is scarcity of large number of facilities which should also made available to them.
"The biggest problem on Sino-India border is road
connectivity.... "I want to assure you... I am always committed to removing your difficulties because you are guarding the Indo-China border", the Home Minister said.
Singh, before flying to Leh, said "I am happy to meet the officers and jawans who are serving in most difficult and remote areas while guarding the borders."
He said the government wants to strengthen and equip the guarding border forces and "we are working on it".
He said he got to know about difficulties and problems faced by para military forces when he took the responsibility of Ministry of Home Affairs.
"One of the DGs of the para military forces told me that the biggest problem with our jawans is that if a jawan gets injured in an operation or is hospitalized, they are considered as 'off duty'. I was pained after hearing this and September last year, I issued an order that they should be treated on duty during the period," the minister said.
On LTC, he said that he will take up the matter with Department of Personnel after returning to Delhi.
Medals for jawans posted in high altitude areas above 9000 feet will also be approved, he said.
Singh said there is a proposal for setting up a transit camp for 240 persons in Leh to ensure better acclimatization and this proposal is going to be approved soon.
"There are 7 battalions of ITBP in Ladakh. They are posted in high altitude areas," he noted.
The Home Minister, who was to inaugurate an ITBP camp in Samba which is close to Pakistan and far away from China border, made it clear that ITBP is not being posted to guard the International Border with Pakistan in Jammu region where BSF is deployed.
"The campus of ITBP which has been set up here is carved out under special experiment. I can say that Samba is the first step on road to Ladakh. It is a place where 'Him Vir'(snow warriors) are being trained and prepared for their onward journey to Ladakh. It is because of this reason that I have started three days visit to Ladakh from this place," he said.
"I consider the ITBP jawans not only 'him vir' but also the sons of Himalaya. On one side, the natural ranges of Himalaya are standing tall like the guardians of our borders and in their lap, our jawans guard the borderlines with China with vigilance and alertness," the Home Minister said.
He said said earlier the DG of para military forces could spend upto Rs five crore without MHA approval and the cap has now been raised to Rs 20 crore by him.
"You are not only guarding the border along India-China but also actively taking role in rescue and relief operation during national calamity, earthquake and floods. You are the first respondents to such calamities," Singh said.
"You have saved the lives of many people by undertaking rescue and relief operation. People of the country have full faith on you," he said.
Apart from border guarding, Singh said ITBP had done superb work when there was an attack on Indian Consulate in Afghanistan and the personnel of the force played a miraculous role by saving the lives of people.
"When the people got reports about your role played during the attack through news channels and print media, people felt proud about your act. It is because of that ITBP got Shourya Chakra," he said.
The Home Minister said initially he was not aware that ITBP is also used in fight against naxalism and believed that only CRPF is engaged in it. "Now I am happy. I feel proud of you that people have faith in you," he said.
He said the governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra have asked for ITBP for their security duty in naxal areas as they have power to give them befitting reply.
He said for Jammu and Kashmir, there is a relaxation in the height for those being recruited in the forces. For the boys category, it is 165 centimeter and for girls category it is 155 centimeters as compared to 170 centimeters for boys and 157 centimeters for girls elsewhere in the country.