The first convoy of the Indian Army on Wednesday passed through the newly-inaugurated Atal Tunnel near Manali in Himachal Pradesh. In a video tweeted by news agency ANI, a convoy of the Army can be seen taking the route via the tunnel.
The tunnel helps in saving four to five hours of travel time and 46 kilometres distance Manali and Leh in the union territory of Ladakh.
On October 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the World’s longest Highway tunnel–Atal Tunnel at its south portal in Manali. The Prime Minister said that taking care of the needs of the security forces of the country is one of the highest priorities of the government, but this was compromised by previous governments. “The interests of the country’s defence forces were compromised,” PM Narendra Modi said at the opening of the Atal tunnel.
PM Modi listed many initiatives of the Government to take care of the needs of the defence forces and stated that the governments earlier did not have the political will to do so and said this situation is changing in the country today. He gave examples of the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, procurement of a modern fighter plane, procurement of ammunition, modern rifles, bulletproof jackets, harsh winter equipment which were laid on hold by the previous government.
The Prime Minister said major reforms such as relaxation of FDI in defence manufacture have been made so as to produce modern weapons and ammunition in the country itself. He said reforms were initiated in the form of creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and establishing better coordination in both procurement and production as per the requirements of the Defence forces. PM Modi also said that the delay in the completion of such important infrastructure projects deprives people of economic and social benefits.
— ANI (@ANI) October 7, 2020
He said 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. He said infrastructure should be developed at a fast pace when the country needs to progress economically and socially. PM Modi said this requires unflinching political will and commitment to the progress of the nation.
He underlined that the Atal Tunnel symbolizes the commitment of the government to ensure that the benefits of development reach out to each and every citizen.
“Earlier, Lahaul-Spiti and several other such areas were left to fend for themselves since these regions could not fulfil the politically selfish desires of some people. But, the country is now working with new thinking, and policies now are not made on the basis of the number of votes, but the endeavour is to ensure that no Indian is left behind.”
Prime Minister noted that Lahaul-Spiti is a big example of this change, as evident in it being one of those districts where the arrangement for har ghar pipe se jal has been ensured.
Prime Minister termed the day as historic as it only fructifies the vision of the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but also the decades-old wish and dream of crores of people from the region.
He said the Atal Tunnel is also going to give new strength to India’s border infrastructure and would be living proof of world-class border connectivity. “The 9.02 km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier the valley was cut off for about 6 months each year owing to heavy snowfall,” stated PM Modi. “After Atal Ji’s government, the work was so neglected that only 1300 metres i.e less than 1.5 Kms of the tunnel could be built till 2013-14 i.e only about 300 metres each year,” said PM Modi.
He claimed that the experts then explained that if it continued at that pace then the tunnel would be completed only in 2040. The Prime Minister said that the government then fast-tracked the project and the construction went on at a speed of 1400 metres each year.
“The project could be completed in 6 years where the estimate was 26 years,” expressed PM Modi.
He added, “The strategically very important airstrip in Ladakh as Daulat Beg Oldi remained uncompleted for 40–45 years though the Air Force wanted an airstrip.”
PM Modi also said that the delay in the completion of such important and major infrastructure projects causes financial losses. “In 2005, the estimated cost for the construction of the tunnel was about Rs 900 crores. But due to continuous delays, today it has been completed after spending more than 3 times i.e. Rs 3200 crore,” said PM.
He said work on the Bogibeel Bridge also started during Atal Ji’s government 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 Atal Ji’s birthday.
He said Atal Ji also laid the foundation stone of Kosi Mahasetu to connect two major regions of Mithilanchal in Bihar. “After 2014, the Government expedited the work of Kosi Mahasetu and the bridge was inaugurated a few weeks ago.”
The Prime Minister said the situation now changed and in the last six years the border infrastructure – be it roads, bridges or tunnels- is being developed with full impetus and great speed.