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ITBP to take elderly border citizens on India tour

 NEW DELHI, Jan 9 - In a major policy move, ITBP will sponsor India-wide excursion tours for senior citizens living in border areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh to build strong ties with the people, described as “strategic assets” by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

 The paramilitary force has also decided to almost double, to a dozen in a year, the number of such regular educational tours for the children living in border areas.

Both the steps have been undertaken for the first time in decades and are understood to be done in the backdrop of India’s strategy to enhance security on its borders.

Official sources said the new policy to take elderly citizens on excursion tours to mainland India, including the national capital Delhi, was made after Union Home Minister recently told the force that they should always keep in mind that the border population living along the Sino-India border were the country’s “strategic assets”.

Addressing ITBP troops at their camp in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath in September after a forward area tour, Singh had directed the frontier guarding force to ensure that this population is taken care of as their migration would put India’s security at risk.

The force has also decided to earmark fresh funds from its Civic Action Programme (CAP) budget to ensure airline tickets for these guests of the force. The CAP funds are given by the Home Ministry to the forces to undertake outreach initiatives for locals in their area of deployment.

“Till now, ITBP and other border guarding forces were only undertaking such tours for children living in border areas to educate them about their vast country.

The first such tour of senior citizens, probably from forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh, is expected in the next few months and the contingent is expected to travel to religious and iconic places of the country and culminate in Delhi before winding up.

The 90,000-personnel strong ITBP is tasked with guarding the 3,488-km-long Sino-India border that stretches from Jammu and Kashmir (1,597 km), to Himachal Pradesh (200 km), Uttarakhand (345 km), Sikkim (220 km) and Arunachal Pradesh (1,126 km).

Border guarding forces on India’s eastern flank, like ITBP, Sashastra Seema Bal and the Army have said they were taking steps to ensure tranquillity on the borders after the Dokalam standoff between Indian and Chinese personnel ended in August last year. – PTI

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