BY VISHAL GULATI
Manali, Oct 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the newly inaugurated Atal Tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district would help give a fresh boost to India’s border infrastructure.
“It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn’t get out of planning stage or got stuck midway,” Modi said in his address to officials after dedicating the highway tunnel, one of the world’s most challenging marvel of engineering motorways in the Himalayas, to the nation.
He said that despite the longstanding demand to improve the infrastructure and overall development of the border areas, plans were made only to languish for decades without any progress.
The tunnel would be a lifeline for Ladakh and boost border security.
Earlier, Modi inaugurated the 9.02km tunnel from its south portal near here. It will ensure all-weather connectivity from Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.
The Prime Minister said such border connectivity projects would also aid the security forces in ensuring regular supplies to them and also in their patrolling.
Modi said the tunnel will act as a saviour for the residents of Lahaul-Spiti, especially during winters when the entire district gets covered by snow and road connectivity through the Rohtang Pass gets snapped.
Modi said: “Infrastructure should be developed at a fast pace when the country needs to progress economically and socially. And this needs unflinching political will and commitment for the progress of the nation.”
He pointed out that delay in the completion of such important and major infrastructure projects causes financial losses and deprives people of economic and social benefits.
He said that in 2005, the estimated cost of tunnel was about Rs 900 crore. But due to continuous delays, it was completed by spending Rs 3,200 crore.
Modi claimed that many important projects were meted the same treatment as the Atal Tunnel.
The strategically very important airstrip in Ladakh, Daulat Beg Oldi, remained uncompleted for 40-45 years though the Indian Air Force wanted an airstrip, he said.
He said that work on the Bogibeel Bridge also started during the Atal government’s tenure but work on it languished later. The bridge provides key connectivity between Arunachal and the north-east region.
He said the work gained unprecedented momentum after 2014 and was inaugurated about two years ago on the occasion of Atalji’s birthday.
The Prime Minister said taking care of the needs of the security forces of the country is one of the highest priorities of the government.
He added that to match the rising global stature of India, the country has to improve its infrastructure, its economic and strategic potential at the same speed.
Modi said the Atal Tunnel is a shining example of the country’s resolve to become atmanirbhar (self-reliant).
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])