M A I N   N E W S

on the LAC Part 2
India needs to ramp up infrastructure along LAC
Ajay Banerjee writes from Fukche in Ladakh

A jeep plies on the 109-km Loma-Fukche-Demchok dirt track near the LAC. In contrast, China has metalled roads right up to the border.
A jeep plies on the 109-km Loma-Fukche-Demchok dirt track near the LAC. In contrast, China has metalled roads right up to the border. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

All along the backbreaking drive on the 109-km dirt track connecting Loma, Fukche and Demchok, it is disconcerting to see how India has failed to lay a metalled road on a flat plain-like plateau in South-Eastern Ladakh despite its announced focus on ramping up infrastructure along the Chinese frontier.

The story of the dirt track repeats itself if an approach is to be made to Chushul, another area on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. Rather, for Chushul - it is the place where the epic battle of Rezang La was fought in 1962 - there are two approaches and both are dirt tracks. One road takes off from south of the Pangong Tso lake and the other one takes off from Loma. Men like Phuntsog Namgayal, local councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Council, echo the demand saying “we have lot of troubles, at least the road should be good”.

Loma, around 180 km south-east of Leh and located along the banks of the Indus, is the bifurcation point for two important approaches towards the sensitive LAC. A left turn takes off to Chushul and the last 68-km stretch is a dirt track. New Delhi now wants to make up and is planning a road to Chushul that will travel a different route and be behind the mountains hence movement on it will be outside visual range of the Chinese.

The other road from Loma goes across a bridge on the Indus and leads to a dirt track to Fukche and Demchok, both located smack on the LAC but 20 km apart, west-to-east. The 109 km drive takes more than three hours in one of the high-end SUVs.

Sources point out that the road work on the stretch had hit a hurdle as the area falls under the “Chumathang cold desert wildlife sanctuary” which was notified around 10 years ago.

There is not a single tree along the route and the population, as per government records, is less than 900. A few hundred wild animals like the Kiang - a kind of mix between a horse and a donkey - inhabit the area. In the second week of October, an independent survey of the animal population was completed and it is hoped the road work will commence in the next fiscal after formal clearance from the environment impact assessment committee.

India’s planning on this front has been faulty despite it having stationed its military outposts at Demchok and Fukche since 1965 and even earlier at Chushul. In contrast, China set up its military posts across the LAC in 2008. Along with the posts have come fully metalled roads, well-stocked storehouses and concrete accommodation for its troops. The difference between India and China’s infrastructure is glaring in these parts of the LAC. The Chinese efforts are visible as one looks across the Indus that runs along the LAC. The Chinese watch towers at Domshele and Demchok are triple-storeyed concrete structures and are visibly well-protected and insulated.

Only now has India ramped up facilities for its jawans at Chushul and provided them with the latest DRDO-built accommodation where inside temperatures can be controlled even if it’s snowing outside.





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