Vibrant Villages Programme along China border to be integrated with PM Gati Shakti mega project

Context: The Government launched the ambitious Vibrant Villages Programme to develop 2,967 border villages along China through integrated planning. It aims to boost infrastructure, open villages to tourism, gather intelligence and curb migration. The programme will use satellite images and GIS mapping to track changes. 455 Arunachal villages, 35 Ladakh villages and some in HP, Sikkim and Uttarakhand will be covered first. The Rs. 4,800 crore scheme focuses on roads, livelihoods and motivating residents to stay. It counters China’s expanding ‘moderately prosperous’ villages opposite sensitive areas.

Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP)

The Government of India announced the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) in the Union Budget 2022-23. It aims to develop infrastructure and enhance livelihood opportunities in villages located along India’s border with China. 

The objective of VVP is threefold:

First, Improve connectivity and basic amenities in border villages to curb migration from these areas. Lack of roads, healthcare, education and economic opportunities have led to migration of youth from border villages in search of jobs. This poses challenges for border security as it reduces the population providing intelligence inputs.

Second, Boost the local economy in border villages through promotion of tourism, trade and handicrafts. This will provide livelihood support to communities living in harsh border conditions.

Third, Strengthen security in border areas by enabling access for defense forces and boosting the morale of local communities. Lack of infrastructure has hampered patrolling in some border areas. Locals acting as ‘eyes and ears’ also need to feel connected to the mainstream. 

  • The VVP aims to cover 2,967 villages in 19 districts across 5 states – Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh along the China border. In the first phase, 662 priority villages will be covered at a cost of Rs. 4,800 crore over 3 years. Road construction will receive the major allocation of Rs. 2,500 crore. 
  • The program will be integrated with the PM Gati Shakti national master plan for coordinated development of infrastructure. Satellite data and GIS mapping will be used to monitor the progress of VVP in real time. States have been asked to organize cultural and tourism activities in selected villages to support the local population. 
  • The VVP is the Centre’s strategic move to strengthen security and spur development in border villages along the sensitive China border. If implemented effectively, it can give a fillip to the economy, improve living standards, reduce migration and enhance India’s defense preparedness through a well-connected and thriving border community. However, much will depend on coordinated efforts between the Centre and States as well as cooperation from locals in these sensitive areas.

Rationale and Significance

  • Develop border areas: The border villages along China are remote, sparsely populated and lack infrastructure and connectivity. The VVP aims to boost infrastructure like roads as well as livelihood opportunities in these neglected areas. This will spur development in these border regions.
  • Curb migration: The lack of opportunities in border villages has led to migration of youth to cities. The VVP seeks to generate livelihoods and motivate people to continue staying in border areas. This can help maintain population in sensitive border regions.
  • Strengthen security: By developing border villages and encouraging people to stay, the VVP will help strengthen India’s security apparatus in these areas. The local population can provide intelligence and their presence also acts as a deterrent against incursions.
  • Counter China: China has been developing model ‘Xiaokang’ villages close to the LAC opposite Indian border states. The VVP is aimed at countering China’s moves by ramping up infrastructure and access in India’s border villages. This can boost India’s strategic interests along the border.
  • Promote tourism: Opening up border villages to tourism through activities like fairs, cultural events etc. can generate employment and economic opportunities for locals. It can also bring these scenic but secluded areas into the mainstream, boosting their prosperity.
  • Integrated planning: The VVP will use technologies like satellite imaging and GIS mapping to monitor development in border villages. This integrated approach can help in targeted policymaking and implementation to transform these villages.

Implementation Strategy

  • MHA is nodal ministry, will monitor through BISAG-N’s satellite data and GIS mapping.
  • Tailored plans: Border villages have diverse terrains, populations and challenges across states. Plans should be tailored based on local needs and potentials. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not work.
  • People’s participation: Local communities must be actively involved in planning and implementation. Their participation can make schemes sustainable and address key priorities. Villagers’ inputs should be incorporated.
  • Focus on connectivity: Lack of connectivity is a key reason for migration and under-development in border areas. Road networks should be expanded along with telecom connectivity. This can open up opportunities.
  • Livelihood promotion: Schemes for skills training, tourism, agriculture etc. should be based on local resources and demands. This can generate sustainable incomes and jobs for people.
  • Continued monitoring: Using satellite data and GIS tools, infrastructure and land use changes in border villages should be regularly monitored. This can help review and upgrade plans to achieve desired development.
  • Convergence of schemes: Various central/state schemes like PMGSY, Skill India, Digital India etc. should be converged for maximum impact. Duplication of efforts should be avoided through integrated planning.
  • Adequate funds and autonomy: Sufficient funds must be allocated for timely completion of ambitious projects. Local administrations should be given more autonomy and flexibility in utilising funds as per needs.
  • Security considerations: Development plans should factor in security considerations given the sensitive border locations. Infrastructure like roads should meet the needs of security forces as well.
  • Promote tourism: In addition to livelihoods, tourism potentials of border villages with natural scenery should be leveraged for economic and connectivity gains. This can boost local prosperity through homestays, guides, handicraft sales etc.
PM Gati Shakti 

It is a digital platform for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects. It aims to bring ministries like Railways, Roadways, Shipping together for coordinated development of projects. The key benefits of integrating the Vibrant Villages Programme with PM Gati Shakti are:

Breaking silos: Different ministries and departments often work in silos, leading to lack of coordination and duplication of efforts. PM Gati Shakti’s integrated platform can enable planning the VVP across ministries, avoiding silos and ensuring convergence.

Prioritising connectivity: The VVP focuses on infrastructure and connectivity in border villages. Use of the PM Gati Shakti platform can help map existing and required connectivity in border areas and prioritise critical gap areas to address first. This data-driven approach aids targeted implementation.

Satellite mapping: PM Gati Shakti uses satellite images and GIS mapping to map terrain and plan projects. This technology can be leveraged for the VVP to map border villages, track infrastructure progress, and make any changes in real-time based on needs. This helps in continued monitoring and optimisation of initiatives.

Identifying chokepoints: The PM Gati Shakti platform uses mapping to identify infrastructure chokepoints and gaps across the country. This approach can similarly help identify key road, rail or digital connectivity chokepoints in border areas that the VVP needs to address on priority to boost access and strategic mobility.

Coordinated security planning: Enhancing infrastructure and connectivity in border villages pertains to national security too. Use of the PM Gati Shakti platform can enable coordinated planning of VVP initiatives along with inputs from security agencies. This helps factor in any security considerations in development plans.

Optimising resources: A comprehensive view of existing and needed infrastructure, enabled by the PM Gati Shakti platform, can help optimise allocation of funds and resources for the VVP. Duplication of efforts can be avoided and funds channeled to priority areas.

Mains Questions

  1. “PM Gati Shakti platform is crucial for the successful implementation of the Vibrant Villages Programme.” Discuss.
  2. “An integrated approach is key to development of remote border areas.” In light of this statement, evaluate how well the Vibrant Villages Programme is designed and what more can be done.

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