In India, the major drivers of both internal and international migration are unemployment, competitive labour market, poor livelihood prospects, and lack of proper infrastructure. Internal migration not only affects the livelihood of the people but also permanently tarnishes the rural economy of the country. It therefore becomes imperative to provide basic infrastructure to the border villages to avoid or reduce this migration. Most of the infrastructure is dependent on the availability of lines of communication or roads to these border villages. It has been seen that availability of roads leads to socio-economic development of these villages.
The construction of roads by Border Road Organisation provides this necessary link that results in availability of basic amenities like schooling facilities, primary health care centres, electricity supply, and employment. One such case study is of border villages of Arunachal Pradesh.
Strategic importance of Arunachal Pradesh
The state of Arunachal Pradesh is located in the extreme North East region of India and is spread over an area of 83,700 sq km with an international border of about 1680 km. The state shares its borders with Bhutan, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and Myanmar, and has interstate borders with Nagaland and Assam. The borders along these areas are of extreme strategic significance and it is important for our Armed Forces to have access through road connectivity to these remote border areas.
As per the 2011 census, the state of Arunachal Pradesh has a population density of only about 17 persons per sq km, which is far below the national average of 370 persons per sq km. The state is ethno-linguistically rich with 26 tribes with scores of sub-tribes with their own distinct language and culture. People of the state are fully integrated, patriotic towards the country, and whole heartedly support our Armed Forces.
The terrain along the border areas comprises of mountains, jungles, rivers, and fast flowing streams. Coupled with heavy rainfall most of the year, makes the task of infrastructure construction very challenging. The lack of infrastructure in these border areas acts as a disincentive for the local population to settle there as they now have aspirations for better basic amenities like roads, houses, schools, hospitals etc, which is causing them to migrate to urban areas, away from the borders. This has an adverse effect on the overall security situation. The lack of a supportive local population leaves large areas along the borders totally unoccupied and makes the areas vulnerable to transgressions from across the borders in an attempt to fill the vacuum created by migration.
Unprecedented outward migration
Construction of Drainage System on Huri RoadRemote areas of Koloriang, Sarli, Damin and Huri in Kurung Kumey district of Arunachal Pradesh have been witness to an unprecedented outward migration over the last seven decades. It is anticipated that approximately 3000 persons of Damin Circle migrated to Koloriang and Itanagar between 2011 to 2021 for want of livelihood, basic amenities like schools, hospitals, electricity, communication etc. This was primarily because of very poor connectivity between Huri and Koloriang with approximate travel time (up to 2022) from Koloriang to Damin being minimum 12 hours. Huri village, approximately 10 km from Damin (across the Kumey river) towards the border was not even connected to the mainland and locals always felt that they would never see a vehicle during their lifetime. Electricity and communication connectivity were a distant dream, and all the essential supplies required were dropped by air by the Indian Air Force. Over a period of time, the local population continued to shrink in the region, raising serious concerns about the demographic pattern, related security aspects, and overall development of infrastructure in the region.
BRO in action
To overcome this challenge and to create the desired infrastructure for the locals with an aim to develop desired basic amenities, BRO got into action to construct a road to Huri. The equipment, manpower, and stores were air lifted to Huri to open additional attack points. The men and machines continuously worked in all seasons while being logistically supported by helicopters, but most of the time even air support was not available due to incessant rains and inclement weather. Since there was no bridge over the Kumey River, a separate dedicated air assistance was required for Huri and Damin as the river between them was not fordable. Huri was finally connected and made trafficable in 2022 when the 200-ft Huri Bridge was airlifted by helicopters and launched on a vertical cliff face.
The construction of road to Huri in Damin circle of Kumung Kumey district by the BRO has reignited hopes for a better tomorrow and has boosted socio-economic development in the area, and triggered the creation of infrastructure related to schools, hospitals, commercial establishments and Agriculture, providing opportunities that were earlier denied to the local people. The travel time from Koloriang to Huri has now reduced to approximately 4 hours against 12 hours.
The construction of road and consequent infrastructure development has triggered significant Reverse Migration in the area which is evident in the phenomenal rise of population in the border areas in just one year (between 2021 and 2022). Construction activity has opened up opportunites for the locals, providing hope for a better life. The school building at Huri is undergoing a transformation with cemented structures coming up. Electric lights now illuminate the villages of Damin and Huri. Recently the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh inaugurated a series of infrastructure projects in Damin which was a result of the efforts of BRO to create reverse migration in the border villages of the State.
The reverse migration in the border villages evidently can be attributed to the rapid pace of infrastructure development in the area consequent to the construction of road to Huri and further to Tapa and other villages by BRO. The trend of reverse migration of people to their traditional lands in border areas is a positive outcome. The presence of a favourable and patriotic local population which is bound to support our Armed Forces will surely act as a deterrent to any transgressions and encroachments.
It is evident that the road to Huri constructed by BRO has brought in immense development to the area resulting in rapid and clearly accelerating reverse migration of population, thus contributing towards our overall National Strategic Objectives. This is just the beginning; the efforts of BRO are aligned to connect the remotest of the border villages to the mainstream.