Tribune News Service
Solang (Manali), October 3
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, Himachal Pradesh, on Saturday.
The Prime Minister said: “This day is a historic day as not only the dream of Atal ji is realised today but also decades-long wait of people of Himachal is over.”
“Not just Himachal Pradesh, Atal Tunnel will be a lifeline for Leh-Ladakh,” he added.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation of approach road for this tunnel but after his government, this work was all but forgotten, he said.
“By 2013-14, only 1300 meters of the tunnel was built. Experts said had work been done at this speed, it would have been completed by 2040,” Modi said.
Taking a swipe at Congress, he said there was an era when defence interests were compromised.
The Prime Minister arrived at Manali on early today morning to inaugurate the Atal Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in the world built at an altitude of 3,000 meters.
The longest motorable tunnel at a height of over 3,000 metres will reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by 46 km. It is expected to boost tourism and winter sports in the region. Significantly, it will facilitate the movement of armed forces and infantry combat vehicles to the Line of Actual Control.
Modi saw the exhibition put up by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) regarding the different stages in the construction of the tunnel at 10,000 feet.
The 9.02-km tunnel connected Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year, the Prime Minister’s Office has said, noting that the valley was earlier cut off for about six months every year due to heavy snowfall.
Modi was accompanied by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur welcomed the Prime Minister on his arrival at Manali.
Attired in their traditional attire, people of Lahaul Valley have turned up in large numbers to express their gratitude to the Prime Minister. Wearing a Kulvi cap and red muffler, Narendra Modi took a walk through the tunnel. The Prime Minister then drove through the tunnel amidst heavy security.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had taken the decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass on June 3, 2000, and the foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.
The foundation stone for the 9.02-km horseshoe-shaped tunnel, built by the Border Roads Organisation at a cost of about Rs 4,000 crore, was laid by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010.
The Modi government decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel in December 2019 to honour the former prime minister who had passed away the previous year. — With PTI
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