New Delhi: Two ministries of the Union government are pitted against each other as construction project to benefit soldiers in eastern Ladakh has turned out to be a non-starter in spite of several crores and five years’ time, Indian Express has exclusively reported.
Announced in 2015, the project would have led to 40 integrated Border Outposts which would have freeze-proof toilets, running water and temperature above 22°C.
This project assumes significance now, considering that Indian troops have had to spend a punishing winter in the region amidst heightened tension with China after a face-off in eastern Ladakh that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese soldiers last year.
The first such outpost was to be built for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at the western bank of the Pangong Tso, the same lake which became the hotspot for Indo-China tussles last year.
The National Projects Construction Corporation which had been tasked with the work is a public service unit under the Ministry of Jal Shakti. Around Rs 20 crore has been spent on the project. However, sources in the ITBP and the Ministry of Home Affairs allegedly told Indian Express that the outpost is not only unable to raise temperatures above 10-11°C but that the poor quality of insulation has left soldiers preferring the earlier huts to these outposts.
“The MHA, sources said, is so unhappy that it has not only stopped part payment to the NPCC for the project, but is also thinking of dumping the project altogether,” the report said.
This has led to a round of mudslinging with the NPCC claiming that it is the withheld payment that is responsible for the reduced efficiency of the outpost.
ITBP, according to sources who spoke to Indian Express, has refused to pay close to Rs 4 crore citing that the contract had stipulated that temperature would be 22°C even if the temperature outside was -44°C.
Complaints have also been raised against the quality of glass in windows and their aluminium frames, both of which fail to keep out icy draughts.
An inspection by an MHA team last year led to multiple meetings between the two ministries, ultimately leading to this impasse.
The report contains a back and forth of official versions, with the NPCC saying that the temperature often comes close to the promised one and the ITBP noting that it is hardly ever above 11°C.