Barbed border wire to get red trade carpet
By Indian Express
Tuesday January 2, 2007
The way India has traditionally managed its border areas - security being the prime concern - will undergo a radical change this year with the Cabinet Committee on Security clearing a revamp of the infrastructure at major land borders to facilitate trade and commerce.
With the South Asian Free Trade Agreement already in place and India’s ongoing negotiations for an FTA with the ASEAN countries, it’s not only economically imperative that India promotes overland trade but also strategically important to spruce up the embarrassing infrastructure at its land ports.
The proposal, cleared by the CCS, involves an overhaul of 13 major land borders and setting up of a Land Ports Authority of India which will identify points on land and riverine borders as landports and then plan and implement their development. Access links to these border points - via rail and road - will then be upgraded to ease movement of goods and people.
So work has begun to replace major entry points on land borders with modern Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) that will not only accommodate state-of-the-art Customs, Immigration and screening facilities but also support services like parking, warehousing, hotels and banking, all under the aegis of a single complex.
The first four ICPs to be implemented on a priority basis, expected to be ready by the end of 2007 or early 2008: Petrapole in West Bengal (bordering Bangladesh), Moreh in Manipur (along the Myanmar border), Raxaul in Bihar (on the Nepal border) and the Wagah border with Pakistan.
While nine other ICPs will be ready by mid-2009, more ICPs will be set up depending on the potential for goods and people traffic at other outposts.
Simultaneously, the Department of Road Transport and Highways and Ministry of Railways have been told to upgrade road and rail links to these 13 border posts on a priority basis. While inter-change of rail-bound traffic is already taking place at Petrapole, Raxaul and Wagah, the conversion of the meter gauge line connecting Moreh is expected to be complete by March 2010.
The Ministry of Railways will soon seek additional budgetary support of up to Rs 905 crore to form the backward linkages with nine other land ports.
While four-laning of the highways leading up to the borders at Wagah, Petrapole, Raxaul and Jogbani (Bihar) is already included in the National Highway Development Programme-III, the roads to Moreh, Sutarkhandi (Assam), Dawki (Meghalaya), Sonauli and Nepalganj (UP) are national highways that are not part of any priority programme and will, therefore, require additional funds.
Access roads to the other four land ports to come up in the east - Hili and Chandrabangha (WB), Akhaura (Tripura) and Kawarpuchiah (Mizoram) - are state roads and states may take advantage of the higher allocation planned under the Border Area Development Programme in the Eleventh Five Year Plan to upgrade these.
An Empowered Steering Committee under Secretary, Department of Border Management in the Ministry of Home Affairs, will oversee the ICPs’ construction until the Land Port Authority of India, on the lines of the Airports Authority of India is set up.
The Committee will also have senior officials from the Ministries of Finance, External Affairs, Commerce, Defence, Road Transport, Planning Commission and Railways.