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Project Management in Border Roads Organisation and related Management Concerns

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  • September 10, 2010
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Shri Amiya Kumar Ghosh
    Discussants: Shri T P Velayudhan and Shri K K Y Mahinderkar

    The infrastructure development in border areas is very important to bolster troop mobility and logistics supply. Realising the need for creation of a single entity for development of road network in far flung and backward areas of western and eastern sectors of the country Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was established in 1960 with the Director General Border Roads as the executive head. Since then the BRO has been engaged with the development of new roads, maintenance of existing roads, construction and maintenance of bridges, border fencing, snow clearance operations to keep the airfields, passes and roads open for maximum period of the year to enable the Army to perform their role effectively and unhindered. The contribution provided by the BRO to maintain and create connectivity to keep the mobility is immense. However, in the process of discharging the assigned role BRO faces several management challenges. Cost and time overrun has been identified by the presenter as the most persistent management concern of the BRO.

    The factors leading to time and cost overrun issue, according to the speaker include line function set up for construction and supervision; diversification of the services in wide spread areas; lack of technical soundness and correct estimation, execution methodology, incorrect and unrealistic technical approach, loose financial control, underutilization of manpower resources or non utilization of technical manpower; underutilization or non utilization of the costly equipments; lack of airlift support system. Most of these factors are internal to the organization. There are some external factors as well leading to time and cost overrun, such as land acquisition problems, problems of payment of land compensation, delays in wild life clearance, forest clearance, rising cost of construction materials, unfavourable climatic conditions, nature of terrain, extent of rainfall and snowfall, natural calamities like floods and changing course of rivers, extremely hot climate and shifting dunes and dust storms in Rajasthan, rarified atmosphere in high altitude areas, limited working season, insurgency, inhospitable conditions, shortages of hired labour etc. .

    According to the speaker the process of preparation of works plan needs improvement. In any planning process at the time of its formulation, the aspects of manpower planning and resource and logistics plan should be given utmost priority. Some of the internal and external factors are controllable by proper project management approach. However, there are some factors which are beyond the control of the organisation. Therefore, there is a need to address both types of concerns by adopting a balanced approach and through proper assessment of external factors before initiating execution of any project. Hence there is a need to review the entire system of plan preparation in BRO. Further the creation of large number of jobs needs to be avoided to devote scarce resources to priority sector job, according to the speaker.

    External Discussant

    Both the external discussants have agreed that the time and cost overrun is a major problem of the BRO. However, they felt that a holistic approach is required to analyse the factors leading to time and cost overrun problem. Humane and socio-economic issues involved in border road construction are discussed at length. Both the discussants have brought out the fact that agency and deposit work can not be avoided. There is a healthy match between Agency and General Staff work. Though outsourcing is recognized an essential alternative to supplement the limited departmental capability of BRO, the inherent risk factor associated with outsourcing was discussed. One of the external discussants has discussed the organizational complexities and labour problem in length. He has brought out the fact that due to various lucrative schemes available at the state level like NREGA, BRO no longer attracts labour to work in the border areas under extreme condition. He feels inclusion of these complex issues would enrich the paper.

    Internal Discussants

    Command and control is identified as an important problem by one of the internal discussants. According to him recruitment of technically competent people and proper supervision can reduce cost overrun to a large extent. Structuring aspect of the paper was discussed by the other internal discussant.

    General Discussion

    It came out very well at the end of the discussion that BRO is working under extreme condition. On the issue of outsourcing when one participant felt that BRO should outsource its work to giants like L&T, another felt that outsourcing is a partial solution to the problem. The system needs be thoroughly reviewed to rectify the weaknesses. The ecological aspect was also touched upon by one participant.

    Chair’s Summary

    The chair concluded that BRO is challenged by several problems apart from time and cost overrun. BRO regulations are outdated and they need to be re-looked and reviewed.

    Report Prepared by Gulbin Sultana, Research Assistant, IDSA