The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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China card to end feud in India
- Centre tells squabbling army and BRO to work for peace in interests of nation

New Delhi, June 20: China’s frenetic road-and-railway building activity on its side of the border with India has sparked concern in New Delhi with the government asking the army and civilian cadre of its frontier works outfit to sue for peace.

It has found that relations between the army and the civilian force in the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were acrimonious.

The minister of state for defence summoned a meeting yesterday and immediately asked the BRO cadre to “sort out all problems in an amicable manner with true spirit of brotherhood”.

The stocktaking was done at a high-level meeting called yesterday after The Telegraph reported that the army officer who heads the BRO, Lt General K.S. Rao, alleged that a chief engineer was inciting “mutiny”.

The word “mutiny” quoted from Lt General Rao’s message to the defence ministry, immediately alerted the government, coming as it did on the 150th year of the 1857 uprising.

The allegation and the recommendation that chief engineer B.B. Lal should be suspended followed widespread unrest among General Reserve Engineers Force (GREF) — the civilian component of the army-controlled BRO.

The unrest came within months of a drive that the Centre had ordered to intensify road building from Arunachal Pradesh to Kashmir.

In June last year, the Centre had revised its policy of not upgrading roads leading to the China border. It sanctioned Rs 992 crore for roads and airfields to be upgraded by the BRO in the Northeast.

An additional Rs 550 crore was sanctioned by the cabinet committee on security subsequently, which also approved the recruitment of about 5,500 personnel.

Documents on a conference in the BRO headquarters in Seema Sadak Bhavan, New Delhi, that ended late last evening shown to The Telegraph revealed that not a single one of the roads for which the funds have been sanctioned has been taken up so far.

In addition, there is an immediate need for 10,000 engineers in GREF/BRO. Not a single new recruit has joined the force in the year since the policy was revised.

More than diplomatic and strategic concerns, such slothfulness and discontent in the BRO has denied millions of ordinary villagers and townsfolk the fruits of development in difficult and harsh terrain.

Work in most BRO projects was affected because of suspicion in the GREF that the army was denying its cadres privileges it had earned.

Minister of state for defence Pallam Raju appealed for peace and an “amicable solution to all issues” at a meeting with the top brass of the organisation to which all chief engineers were summoned.

But before Raju asked the army and the GREF “to have mutual respect and work hand in hand to achieve national objectives”, the reports from the chief engineers revealed that nearly all 13 BRO projects had incurred time and cost overruns.

Asked about discontent within the BRO, spokesperson for the defence ministry, Sitanshu Kar said: “The minister was apprised of various problems affecting career prospects of BRO personnel. He was concerned that in some cases, engineers recruited at the entry-level had not got promotions for 20 years”.

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