Border Area Migration — A Chink In Intelligence Gathering
Colonel Satish Singh Lalotra
Arunachal Pradesh shares 1080 Km of borer with China, 440 kms with Myanmar, &160 Km with Bhutan. 20 of the state’s 60 assembly constituencies touch international borders, 13 of them with China. While posted at Mechuka forward post as a Major in Arunachal Pradesh I had the good fortune of interacting with an IB officer /Assistant intelligence officer Grade 2, Nair who had his task cut out to cultivate the local sources for Intelligence purposes and came to know the practical problems being faced by him in doing so.
The locals had in fact started desisting from deeper forays into areas next to McMohan Line or else had started keeping their mouth shut due to regular brush with the intruding PLA and also local intrigues bedevilling Mechuka, regarding their exploits. Both of these actions did not portend well for India and the security agencies as such.
In case of Uttarakhand the situation is much more precarious. In fact in the last one decade or so 1,18,981 people had migrated from their border villages. People from 3,936 Gram panchayats totalling about 3,83,726 have migrated temporarily. As per the local activists of the area, successive Uttarakhand Governments have not come up with any credible hill development model for sustained progress of the locals leading to such an impasse.
The problems plaguing these areas are lack of education facilities ,health infrastructure, poor road connectivity and lack of an industrial back up to name a few It is not that the Governments of the day are not seized of the matter ,both at central and state level land looking askance.
In fact to take the matters head on GOI had long ago started the BADP/Border area development programme which initially was started from the western sector bordering Pakistan but was later on extended to the North eastern areas in 199394 in the 8th five year plan. The funds under the BADP programme are provided to the states as a 100 per cent non lapsable special central assistance.
Currently this programme is being implemented in all the 17 states which share international border of India. The financial allocations for the BADP Programme for the above states for the year 2020/21 range from as low as 11.11cr to 124.26 crores. Though the BADP allocation of the GOI has all the necessary ingredients of a successful plan, but it lacks allocating money for developing local industries in the border areas, which would act as a catalyst in reverse migration of all the able bodied persons.
In Himachal Pradesh in the border areas of Lahulspiti and Kinnaur the state shares approximately 220 Km of international border with Tibet. It has to be understood by the various governments of the day that border people are a typical small but important cog in the mammoth intelligence gathering machinery available at the disposal of the state which if not harnessed properly may go kaput putting the entire intelligence gathering process into jeopardy.
The border area people with their close proximity to the terrain, routes, roads and all the nook and corners of that area are the typical eyes and ears of the government who can smell anything untoward happening across the border in their immediate vicinity much faster as compared to all the technical gizmos available at hand to the government.
India in fact has been lucky among other nation/states in the sense that our colonial masters, the British left behind very robust and excellent cues for us to follow to make our national security fool proof by way of undertaking infrastructure projects with dual purpose i.e for public good as also for greater connectivity with the hinterland. As an example during the height of Great Game in the middle of 19th century Lord Dalhousie got the now famous Hindustan Tibet road /N1122 constructed in 1850 which connects the interiors of Kmnaur / Himachal Pradesh with Punjab and Delhi.
This lead to greater bridging of the emotional gap as well as physical distance between the hilly people and the plains population thus paving the way for national integration and assimilation in a much faster way.
The British in fact went a step ahead when they started recruiting Bhotia population along with the Tibetans as a disguise to survey, reconnoiter and map the hitherto impassible Himalayan and Karakorum passes and ranges.
This act of theirs opened up new vistas of employment to the simple but hardy tribes of these areas as also helped in connecting the dots of uncharted and unmapped areas of frontier regions of India.