Vibrant village programme would benefit border villages in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, along with PM-DevINE by providing basic necessities in the region.
New Delhi: Leadership is always about the right vision. This simple fact applies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a knack for preparing the ground for some path-breaking initiatives.
On Wednesday, PM Modi said, "Can we tour border villages, spend a night there, experience the ambience, study the lives of people staying there? This will bring vibrancy to those regions."
In fact, the Prime Minister and his government have given a unique priority level focus on the development of border areas. And this is being done for good reasons. For states like Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, the Budget 2022-23 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had a specially crafted scheme to possibly 'counter' the territorial claims by some regional players in Arunachal Pradesh and on the villages along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
"Border villages with a sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure often get left out from the development gains. Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Villages Programme," Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.
She further said the programme would focus on activities such as the construction of village infrastructure, concrete houses, tourist centres, better and accessible road connectivity, provisioning of renewable energy, DTH services of government-owned Doordarshan and other educational channels.
Notably, speaking to party workers on the Union Budget 2022, PM Modi said on Feb 2, "Migration from border villages is not good for national security. The budget has provisions for developing 'vibrant villages' along the border." He also said the Vibrant village programme would benefit border villages in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.
The government also plans to impart National Cadet Corps training to youth in border villages. "It will help them join armed forces," said Modi.
This year's budget and the government's move to help border villages in a few specific states adjoining China offer another key facet.
In Uttarakhand, it is said over 180 villages in three districts bordering Tibet — Uttarkashi, Chamoli, and Pithoragarh had virtually turned into "ghost-villages" in seven years between 2011 and 2018.
The two districts bordering China — Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur in Himachal — also witnessed a decline in population between 2001 and 2011. In fact, Lahaul-Spiti district, the larger of the two, reported a negative decadal growth rate of population, at -5 (minus five) per cent.
The same issues persist in the Ladakh region as well. Analysts say the rural-to-urban migration of 'nomadic pastoralists' from eastern Ladakh to Leh and other places due to economic opportunities has led to the 'thinning' of Indian presence. The territorial claims on the ground in such situations become a practical problem.
Hence, the Budget must be hailed for taking care of this crucial aspect of national security and India's own territorial integrity.
It is worth mentioning that in their respective state Budgets, Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, announced that it would construct three model villages along the border. In fact, the Uttarakhand government has identified 100 villages along the frontier for development as model villages.
In his speech on Feb 23, the Prime Minister also said the new Development Initiative for the North East (PM-DevINE) would also ensure the saturation of basic amenities in the region.
It is worth mentioning that China has lately undertaken large-scale construction activity along the border with India, setting up' border villages' in Tibet to strengthen their presence along the frontier. Under a "Xiaokang" programme, Beijing has developed over 600 settlements along the border with India and Bhutan, in some areas considered controversial and disputed. Also, notably, China has built about 450-km-long railway lines linking Lhasa and Nyingchi. It is said Nyingchi could host over 30 million tourist trips and garnered revenue from tourism stands at ($3.69 billion).