Sunday, June 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM announces Rohtang tunnel
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, June 3 — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today announced construction of a tunnel under Rohtang pass (13,700 ft) to provide a year round access to the tribal area of Lahaul and said that the project would be completed in seven years.

Mr Vajpayee, who was addressing a large public meeting at Keylong — the district headquarter of Lahaul-Spiti, said that the 10 km long tunnel would be constructed at a cost of about Rs 1000 crore with modern techniques so as to avoid delays which resulted in cost overruns.

He said the tunnel would not only benefit the people of Lahaul, Pangi and Ladakh, but was also important from the security point of view as the distance between Mandi and Leh would also be reduced.

Mr Vajpayee said that he had discussed the issue of construction of the tunnel with the Defence Minister yesterday. The matter was also discussed recently in a meeting of the Ministry of Surface Transport.

He said construction of the tunnel was a long-standing demand, and would open a new era of development in the Lahaul region.

The Prime Minister said the proposal to construct the tunnel had been lying pending for the past several years and the demand for clearing the project was raised many times.

On Sri Lanka he made clear that India does not intend to send its military to Sri Lanka to solve the problem of that country. The Lankan Government should try to solve the problem by holding negotiations with the Tamils, he suggested.

He said no talks will be held with Pakistan until it stopped engineering terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Vajpayee also condemned events in Fiji and said that there should be no discrimination on the basis of caste and religion.

The Prime Minister was receptive to other demands of the Lahaul-Spiti area and said the government will consider raising the customs duty on hops so as to discourage imports to benefit growers of the area.

He said the demand of the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, for exempting employees serving in tribal areas from payment of income tax would be discussed with the concerned authorities.

Mr Vajpayee expressed concern at the felling of trees in the hills, which, he said, would affect the environment.

Earlier, the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, said a hops pelletisation plant was being set up at Nalagarh in Solan district.

A prominent resident of the town, Mr Tashi Dawa, presented the traditional chogo and cap to Mr Vajpayee.


3 hurt in Shia protests
2 Army men die in Pak shelling
From Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 3 — Barring sporadic demonstrations and some stone throwing incidents in Shia-dominated areas the valley remained peaceful today despite yesterday’s explosion at Pattan which killed 12 persons and injured several others.

The former Minister for Housing and Urban Development, and Shia leader Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, who was among the injured was discharged from the hospital today. Three persons were injured in incidents of stone-throwing.

The death toll in the explosion has gone up to 12, according to the police, following the recovery of one more body today. The persons who were seriously injured in the explosion during a religious gathering of Shia Muslims, are undergoing treatment at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura here.

Protest demonstrations were held in Pattan and at Mirgund in the area where the explosion took place and in village Gunde Khwaja Qasim on Friday.

Protest demonstrations were also held in Shia dominated Gango village in Pulwana district in south Kashmir.

There were also protests in Saida Kadal and Zadibal area of Srinagar city, which are dominated by the Shias today. The Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, Dr Ashok Bhan said that situation was generally peaceful.

The largest gathering assembled at the site of the explosion at Gunde Khwaja Qasim, where the Shia leader, Iftikhar Hussian Ansari had a narrow escape yesterday. A large number of people converged at the spot and raised slogans against police and other security agencies. Anti-Pakistan slogans were also held in the area, police said.

There were reports of firing in the Mirgund area in Shia dominated Pattan today, but the police did not confirm this. According to the IG Kashmir, Dr Ashok Bhan, the DIG and SSP concerned visited the area but there was no reports of firing.

Several educational institutions in the capital city were closed today following reports of sporadic demonstrations and violence in downtown localities of Saidakadal and Zadibal area of the city.

JAMMU: Two Army personnel were killed in shelling by Pakistani troops in Jammu region’s Rajouri sector, defence sources said.

BSF personnel and Pakistani rangers also exchanged fire at seven places along the international border in the Jammu region on Friday night, they said, adding that there was no loss of life or damage to property on the Indian side.

Subedar Mohammad Shafi and jawan Khadim Hussain were killed in Pak shelling at Kalsian village, the sources said.

Meanwhile, 15 militants and five securitymen were killed and 17 others injured in separate incidents in the state since Friday evening, an official spokesman said here.

Five militants and a security personnel were killed and nine injured in two encounters in Baramula district, the spokesman said, adding that two more ultras were killed in the frontier district of Kupwara.

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