The Atal Tunnel is part of the central government’s commitment to make development reach every corner and every citizen of the country, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Saturday.
“Atal Tunnel is part of the Centre’s commitment to make development reach every corner of the country. Earlier, there were many regions of the country, which were left to fend for themselves, it was because of the simple reason that these regions did not fulfill the political ambitions of some people,” Modi said speaking at a public rally in Sissu, Lahaul Valley.
The Prime Minister was speaking after inaugurating the Atal Tunnel, earlier today, in Rohtang. Hailing the tunnel, he said this would drastically change the fortunes of the people from the region.
“A new dawn has come for Lahaul’s people with the construction of Atal Tunnel, and for Pangi’s residents too. This 9 km tunnel has reduced the distance to a great extent. Many people of the area had never thought that this day would have been possible. Many of the people from here have seen the patients suffering in the winters (due to lack of medical facilities), their children will not face the same problems again. This will benefit farmers, horticulturists, cattle-rearers, students, traders and all others,” PM Modi said.
“Years ago when I used to come here as a worker amidst you, I had to undertake the long journey of Rohtang and when the pass used to close during winters then sources of medicine, employment and education used to close. I have seen this firsthand,” he said.
The Prime Minister also remembered his former colleagues from the state, whom he had worked with. He also said former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was aware of the difficulties faced by the people in this region and therefore, he had announced the construction of the Tunnel in 2000.
“I remember the mood of festivity in this region when the announcement was made,” PM Modi said.
The PM said it will enable the agriculture produce of Lahaul’s farmers to reach markets and fetch higher prices. He also highlighted the fact that the region is known for producing several medicinal crops, which could make it hold an iconic position in the country and the world in the coming days.
He also said this area will also boost tourism in the region and give employment opportunities in ares such as handicraft and home-stays to its people.
PM Modi also hailed the district’s performance in achieving the target of ensuring that every household has access to water, which is supplied directly to the houses through pipes.
The Atal Tunnel, at 9.02 km is the longest highway tunnel in the world and connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley in Rohtang.
The PM had also flagged off a bus carrying 15 passengers from the north portal of Atal Tunnel in Sissu, Lahaul Valley for the south portal for the tunnel.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State Anurag Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane were also present at the ceremony, which was held shortly after 10 am.
The Tunnel will ensure movement throughout the year. Earlier, the Valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall. The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 kilometres between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.