Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced a plan to strengthen infrastructure in villages bordering China. The move comes in the backdrop of the ongoing standoff along the border in eastern Ladakh and concerns in the security establishment over the establishment of villages in several areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by China.
“Border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure are often left out of development benefits. Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Village programme,” Sitharaman said during her budget speech. “The activities will include building village infrastructure, housing, tourism centres, road connectivity, provision of decentralized renewable energy, direct home access for television and educational channels, and support for livelihood generation,” he said.
The Finance Minister said that additional funds would be provided for these activities. “The existing schemes will be brought together. We will define their results and monitor them on an ongoing basis,” he said. The government has taken several steps over the years to boost the infrastructure along the border. Last October, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Manoj Pandey told reporters that new villages have come up on the Chinese side of the border in some areas and India has taken note of this in its operational strategy.
Lt Gen Pandey took over as the Chief of the Army Staff on Tuesday. In a report in November, the US Defense Department said that China built a large 100-household civilian village inside the disputed area on the eastern side of the LAC between its Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh. Following the report, sources in India’s security establishment said the village was in an area controlled by the Chinese military for nearly six decades. In the wake of the eastern Ladakh standoff, India strengthened its overall military preparedness along the LAC in the Arunachal Pradesh sector as well.