Govt accepts Shekatkar recommendations to boost border roads projects

In a major boost to building strategic roads along India’s northern border with China, the government on Monday accepted and implemented three important recommendations relating to border infrastructure, made by the Shekatkar Committee in 2016.

The recommendations accepted were aimed at speeding up road construction in remote areas, providing easier access to the military and leading to socio economic development in the border areas.

First, the government has implemented the Shekatkar Committee recommendation “to outsource road construction work beyond optimal capacity of Border Roads Organisation (BRO).”

This is aimed at bringing in private sector road construction agencies and taking the load off a heavily overstretched BRO, which is struggling to maintain the existing network of borders roads and highways; while also building new roads to areas that have remained outside the road network since independence.

To ensure oversight, the government has made it mandatory to adhere to the Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) for executing all projects that cost more than Rs 100 crore.

Second, the government has accepted a Shekatkar Committee recommendation that makes it easier to introduce modern construction plant, equipment and machinery. For this, the BRO’s “enhanced procurement powers” for domestic and foreign procurements from have been increased from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore.

This is deemed essential, with the BRO engaged in sophisticated road and tunnel construction projects, such as the Atal Behari Vajpayee Tunnel near Manali that underpasses the Rohtang Pass; and the 80-kilometre-long road on the Kailash Mansarovar route from Dharchula (Uttarakhand) to Lipulekh (China Border).

For projects like these, the “BRO has recently inducted Hot-Mix Plant 20/30 TPH for speedier laying of roads, remote operated hydraulic Rock Drills DC-400 R for hard rock cutting, a range of F-90 series of self-propelled snow-cutters/blowers for speedier snow clearance,” stated the defence ministry (MoD).

The BRO is also introducing advanced new technologies to speed up construction, such as precision blasting, use of geo-textiles for soil stabilisation, using cementitious base for pavements and plastic coated aggregates for surfacing.

“With the empowerment of field officers through enhanced delegation of financial and administrative powers, there has been significant improvement in faster financial closure of works,” said the MoD

Finally, completing land acquisition and obtaining statutory clearances such as forest and environmental clearance will now be pre-requisites for approving the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for a new road. Work can be awarded only after at least 90 per cent of the statutory clearances have been obtained.

The Shekatkar Committee submitted a total of 99 recommendations. Details of the report and its recommendations have not been placed in the public domain as it “covers operational aspects of the armed forces, disclosure of which is not in the interest of national security,” the government told Parliament in February 2019.

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