All-Weather Border Posts: Ministries in Blame Game as Ladakh Project Fails

All-Weather Border Posts: Ministries in Blame Game as Ladakh Project Fails

At a time when Indian troops they are still in a showdown with the chinese Along the Royal Line of Control in eastern Ladakh, an infrastructure project for troops protecting the region has turned out to be a failure after five years of work and million-rupee investment.

And the project’s failure has also pitted two key government ministries, the Interior Ministry and the Jal Shakti Ministry, against each other.

The project involved the construction of more than 40 integrated border posts (BOPs) announced by the government in 2015. These BOPs were supposed to be the first of their kind in the region with freeze-proof toilets, running water and temperatures maintained above 22 degrees Celsius at all times.

The project was seen as a significant step in improving border infrastructure for troops on the front line at a time when infrastructure on the Chinese side was considered years ahead of India.

The construction of the first BOP was authorized, as a project pilot, for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Lukung, on the western bank of Pangong Tso. The lake area witnessed a serious clash between Indian and Chinese troops for nine months before the disengagement was achieved in February this year.

The project was awarded to the National Project Construction Corporation (NPCC), a PSU under the Ministry of Jal Shakti. Five years later, and after spending around 20 million rupees, the project, for all practical purposes, has been declared a failure by the ITBP.

Sources from the ITBP and MHA said that the BOP cannot maintain temperatures of more than 10-11 degrees Celsius and the quality of the construction is so poor that the 40 jaws that remain in the BOP have started to lose the insulated prefab cabins. where they lived before.

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The MHA, sources said, is so unhappy that it has not only stopped paying part-time to the NPCC for the project, but is also considering getting rid of the project entirely.

The NPCC, on the other hand, has blamed the ITBP and MHA for the failure of the project, claiming that the withholding of payment has resulted in the subcontractor in question not maintaining the heating system and thus negatively impacting the balance of payments efficiency.

Sources said ITBP has withheld Rs 4 million payment to NPCC for failing to maintain the desired temperature within the base of the pyramid. “The contract between us and the NPCC was to build a BOP where the temperature would stay above 22 degrees Celsius throughout the year, even if the outside temperature was minus 44 degrees. The NPCC has not met the most fundamental requirements. For us, the BOP is still incomplete. So why should we release the full payment? “said a senior ITBP official.

MHA sources said that even the quality of construction is poor. “NPCC was supposed to provide Rajdhani train type insulating windows in the BOP with double panes of glass, but they have used poor quality glass and fixed the same in aluminum frames, which has caused icy drafts in the BOP. The Jawans say they felt warmer in their prefabricated huts, ”said an MHA official.

The BOP was inspected last year by the Secretary (Border Management) at the MHA together with senior ITBP officials. Since then there have been multiple meetings and communications between the branches of the two ministries to improve the situation to no avail, the sources said.

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Responding to inquiries from The Sunday Express, DP Singh, Head of Department (Projects), NPCC, said that the work was completed in all respects according to the scope of the project in October 2019, but the 40 members of ITBP staff were they transferred to the BOP. only in October 2020.

“The temperature of the ground floor was observed to be between 19.5 and 22 degrees Celsius and on the first floor it was 17 to 19.5 degrees Celsius in the months of October 2020 to January 2021,” Singh said, providing screenshots of the temperature reading.

ITBP officials, however, said that they too have taken readings every day and that the temperature is barely staying above 10-11 degrees.

The NPCC stated that it had gone beyond the scope of work to accommodate the demands of the ITBP and the Secretary (WB), and agreed to additional construction and one year maintenance. But the MHA, he said, was not releasing his payment, leading to maintenance problems.

According to Singh, ITBP is yet to settle outstanding bills of Rs 4 crore and GST of more than Rs 1 crore. “Because of this, neither maintenance is taking place nor technology partners are willing to help them due to defaults in the last two years,” he said.

An NPCC official involved in the project said the heating system at the BOP runs on solar and geothermal energy. “There are some chemicals and liquids that need to be replaced regularly in the heating system to keep it efficient. The subcontractor has not been paid, so he refuses to keep it, ”he said.

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According to NPCC, to increase the efficiency of the building’s green features, it had submitted an improvement proposal to the ITBP in August 2020. This, it said, was “based on discussion with MHA and ITBP officials. But to date, no decision has been communicated in this regard. “

However, an MHA official said this was just a way to hide his inability to execute the project. “Now they are asking us to build a wall between the BOP and Pangong Lake to break the wind. It has not complied with the agreed project and now it is asking us to spend more, “said the official.

A detailed questionnaire sent by The Sunday Express to the ITBP and the MHA did not obtain any response. Meanwhile, the NPCC has sent ITBP an additional bill of Rs 1.35 million.

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