Manali (Himachal Pradesh):
The strategically important Atal Tunnel is dedicated to the armed forces protecting India’s borders and those living in the remote terrains, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Manali on Saturday.
“I do not need to explain the importance of this tunnel, its strategic importance is understood by everyone. It will ensure speedy and faster transportation of rations, weapons and other logistics. It will also help in faster deployment of personnel. Situated on the border of two nations, it is dedicated to those protecting our borders, and those who live in those areas,” Mr Singh said at the inaugural ceremony.
With the Atal Tunnel becoming functional, the region will prosper with more opportunities of employment, tourism and commerce, said the minister.
“It is also a very important tunnel for social and economic development,” he added.
Mr Singh also recollected that when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced the construction of this tunnel then PM Modi was working in Himachal Pradesh as the party’s official.
“I consider this a coincidence that when Atalji announced the construction of this Tunnel, you were working as the Himachal Pradesh (party) in-charge and today when it is being completed then you are here to dedicate it to the nation,” Mr Singh said.
He also thanked the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), and all others who had contributed to its construction.
Earlier, PM Modi had inaugurated the Atal Tunnel, which 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, Minister of State (MoS) Anurag Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane were also present at the ceremony.
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.