The Border Security Force (BSF) handed over access control and security of India Bridge on the Khavda-Vighakot highway — a crucial access point to the Indo-Pakistan international border in Kutch district — to the Gujarat Police on Thursday.
The move is aimed at facilitating movement of goods and resources for the proposed 30,000 MegaWatt (MW) hybrid renewable energy park close to the international border in Kutch district, BSF officers said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid foundation stone for the park at an event in Dhordo village near Khavda on December 15 last year and had said that wind turbines along the international border would make the borders more secure.
At present, the BSF provides security and controls access to India Bridge, one of the crucial connecting points for movement of goods towards the India-Pak border. The BSF will redeploy the manpower relieved from India Bridge duty to forward areas closer to the international border.
“The BSF has been providing security at India Bridge since its inception. This bridge, around 39 km from the international border, is the first of three checkpoints that BSF controls. The other two checkpoints are BOP (border outpost) Dharamshala and Chidya mod. These checkpoints control access to the desert, where anyone can get easily lost as there are no landmarks. Now, we have handed over the India Bridge to the Gujarat Police because there will be a lot of movement in the area. We will continue to occupy the two other checkpoints and thus provide security cover to the ongoing construction work for the renewable energy park,” a senior BSF officer said.
Saurabh Singh, Superintendent of Kutch (west) police, said, “Our staff has joined the BSF personnel as part of the transition in security of the bridge and controlling access to the bridge. We are selecting our men who would eventually be deployed at the bridge and the transition will take a while as the BSF has been controlling the bridge for the last 50 years and our staff need their help in learning management of the bridge as our people will be doing it for the first,” Singh told The Indian Express, adding that the BSF has been manning the important bridge since 1971.
The SP said a separate police unit for the management of India Bridge has not not proposed at this stage and added that probably the staff of Khavda police station, the police station nearest to the bridge, will eventually man it.
There is a war memorial at Dharamshala BOP and BSF permits entry of tourists to this memorial as well as up to Vighakot border via the India Bridge. However, prior permission of the BSF is mandatory and tourist convoys go thorough security checks at India Bridge before they are allowed to proceed towards the prohibited zone along the border. But the SP said the police are yet to finalise the modalities of the bridge management. “Lots of things have to be planned like to what point the BSF is moving forward and what in between the points controlled by the BSF and the police. It’s not only about access control, police deployment and BSF deployment. We need to discuss lots of things like checking, what kinds of things should be allowed and what shouldn’t be, who will give permission to people going forward etc. Since police will be there, naturally, they will have to take permission from the police,” said Singh.
The Indian Express had reported earlier that the Gujarat government had identified a huge tract of land – 1,00,000 hectares of wasteland – right on the international border with Pakistan near Khavda, 72 km north of Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch, for the proposed mega hybrid renewable energy park. In April 2020, after taking into consideration the requirements of defence forces, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) gave its approval for 72,600 hectares on which the hybrid renewable energy park will be built.
The hybrid renewable energy park will consist of two zones. The first is a Hybrid Park Zone on 49,600 hectares which will accommodate 24,800 MW of wind and solar power plants. The second park of this park will be an exclusive wind park zone which will be spread over 23,000 hectares and will accommodate wind mill projects.
The project will be located between Khavda village and Vighakot. The project site is nearly 25 km from Khavda village, which is the last point that can be accessed by civilians in the area. The closest to the border is the Exclusive Wind Park Zone, which will be located within 1-6 km of the international border. The Hybrid Park Zone will be located behind the six-km area from the border. These parks extend horizontally and is expected to come up in an area where the BSF is already present.
For the Hybrid Park Zone, land has been allotted to Adani Green Energy Ltd (19,000 hectares), Sarjan Realities Ltd (Suzlon, 9,500 hectares ), National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC 9,500 hectares), Gujarat Industries Power Company Ltd (GIPCL, 4750 hectares) and Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (GSECL, 6,650 hectares). Adani Green will develop 9,500 MW, Sarjan Realities (4,750 MW), GIPCL (2,375 MW), GSECL (3,325 MW) and NTPC (4,750 MW).
For the entire exclusive Wind Zone Park, 23,000 hectares has been allotted to the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to set up wind projects under the competitive bidding route policy. The selected developers have to develop 50 per cent of the total generation capacity in the next three years and finish the project in five years, according to state government officials.
“An 18-km road is going to be built by the state public works department. It will bypass India bridge and provide access to the project (site). Secondly, the existing road that leads from India Bridge to Vighakot is being strengthened and widened,” a state government official had told The Indian Express earlier.
There are a number of “no-go zones” around the project that belong to either the Army or the BSF.
With the passage of time, strategic importance of the India Bridge has also come down as multiple points of access have been created to reach the international border. “Earlier, India Bridge was the sole connecting link between the border and the inland areas. It was also the last accessible point for civilians,” the senior BSF officer said.